If you are interested in exploring whether a solar project makes sense for you, here are some steps to help you determine what the ideal solar project for you might be.
Step 1 - Join CREWsolar:
Download and complete a CREW membership form and let the CREW solar working group know you're interested. The CREW membership and board of directors has a number of early adopters with solar systems installed at their own homes as well as people who work in the solar and renewable energy field that would love to share their knowledge and experiences with you.
Step 2 - Determine your load:
If you're interested in solar PV, determine your electricity consumption and identify conservation opportunities using the Power $aving Network toolkit [PDF 1.3MB]. This "load assessment" will tell you what fraction of your household electricity needs can be met by installing a solar PV system. If you're considering a solar hot water system, have a look at your household's total water consumption and estimate the fraction which is hot water. (See your utility bill for metered water usage; 1 cubic meter of water is equal to 1000 litres.)
Step 3 - Assess your site:
You'll need a site with good southern exposure. A south facing direction is ideal for solar PV, but anywhere from southwest to southeast will work with only a small reduction in output. Even east or west facing panels will produce electricity for the homeowner at a rate of 70-75% of a due south orientation. Solar-thermal works best when facing due south, but will offer some benefit on due east or due west surfaces as well. Either way, take a careful look at tall buildings or trees that might shade your exposure, and be sure to check the shading in both the morning and the afternoon/evening. Professional solar resource assessments complete with written reports are available from Waterloo Green Solutions (REEP). REEP is offering a $20 discount on the cost of the solar assessment to participants in CREW's solar project, so be sure to mention your connection to CREW when you sign up.
Step 4 - Check your numbers:
The Canadian Solar Resource Atlas will give you a good idea of how much solar energy is available at your site. You can use the number from the 'atlas' in programs like RETScreen to calculate a reasonable estimate of how much electricity you'll actually generate on your property, and how much money that could make for you. The expected revenue can then be used to verify important financial items like payback (in years) and return on investment ratios. Typically, for installed solar PV modules, you can expect to generate about 1200-1300 kWh per kW in Waterloo region. Solar thermal hot water systems are usually sized to provide about 50% of annual hot water needs (<10% in winter; 100% in summer). As an example of solar hot water system performance and cost, see the Globe Energy SDHW system offered to WISE customers and the performance claims for this system.
Step 5 - Check your budget:
Learn all you can regarding costs and incentives for solar PV systems. Good sites to start with are our Costs and Incentives page, the Our Power website and the GoSolar site. Make sure you know what you're prepared to spend, then check with CREWsolar to get an idea of what the local prices are expected to be in the coming year. If you need financing options, then our Costs and Incentives page can help you with that too.
Step 6 - Sign up:
If you're serious about moving ahead, sign on to CREW SIDE program. We crafted a Request for Proposal that was sent to all solar suppliers interested in bidding. From the responses we received, we selected preferred suppliers whom we believe offer the best value and customer service for CREW SIDE participants. The vendors we have chosen will make it simple for home owners by getting all necessary permits, including (as necessary) building permits, grid connection agreements, electrical safety inspections and feed-in tariff application submissions.
Click here to view the CREW SIDE information sheet and list of recommended vendors.
Step 7 - Do your project!
As a member of CREWsolar, you can access turn-key solar energy systems, including financing, metering, and a contract that pays 80.2 ¢/kWh for the electricity you generate. The applications for Ontario's new Feed-In Tariff will be handled on a first-come first-serve basis. So the sooner you sign up to CREW's SIDE, the sooner you'll receive the 80.2 ¢/kWh buy-back rate. Your decision to invest in solar energy is supported by the strength of community members, including the project organizers and local solar experts, working together to make solar easy and profitable.
Step 8 - Tell your story:
Tell your family, friends, neighbours, work-mates, and please tell us! We want to know about your project. We may even ask you if we can post a picture of it in our photo gallery. Please send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.