With almost 400 participants installing a system, over 2500 homes expressing interest, and 800 people at public events, there was significant community participation and interest in the Solar City Pilot program. Property owners installing a solar thermal system are experiencing a Return on Investment (ROI) of approximately 5% on average over 25 years. This assumes energy savings will increase by 2.2% per year because of increases in the price of fuel and electricity (source: U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2014). If a program participant elects to finance the cost of the system over 10 years, the interest cost reduces the ROI to about 3.4%.
The program was implemented with minimal risk to the municipality. With almost 400 installations of solar thermal systems over two years, the program positively impacted the adoption of renewable energy in the municipality. Based on the most recent industry reporting, the number of residential installations under the pilot program exceeds the number of residential installations Canada wide on an annual basis.
The 388 residents who installed system could save over $5.5 million over the expected 25+ year lifespan of the system and reduce greenhouse gases by 16.1 million kg of CO2. Significant employment of local contractors and manufacturing was also experienced. Additionally, over 1265 homes had water conservation measures implemented free of charge during their solar assessment and could save 320 million litres of water in the next 20 years and $120,000 annually in water and heating costs.
This project was carried out with assistance from the Green Municipal Fund, a Fund financed by the Government of Canada and administered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Notwithstanding this support, the views expressed are the personal views of the authors, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Government of Canada accept no responsibility for them.
The Solar City Pilot program offered an exciting option for homeowners to monitor their systems in real-time. For a few hundred dollars, homeowners could choose this option as an addition to their system. The monitoring option provided value to homeowners by offering real-time performance metrics and historical values for water consumption, energy savings and greenhouse gas reductions. The Solar City office developed a Solar Monitoring Map showing monitored solar installations across the Halifax region. There are currently over 200 monitored solar systems around the Halifax region.
Over 60% of Solar City homeowners adopted a live internet based monitoring system. So there is now an unprecedented amount of data on the performance of solar water heaters in Halifax. The data being collected is not only useful to homeowners, but will help the municipality calibrate the success of the program and inform future decisions.
The Solar Monitoring Map shows not only Solar City monitored installations, but also other solar projects outside of Solar City with live monitoring. The bottom left corner of the map has a legend that can be toggled to show the type of system (solar thermal or solar PV), as well as the manufacturers, installers and system sizes. Please let us know if you have a monitored solar system and are willing to have it included on our publicly available Solar Monitoring Map. Please also let us know if you have been included on the map and would like to now be removed. We are open to your comments and feedback and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What are these assessments about?
During the pilot, homes in the Solar City Program received a free site assessment to evaluate the feasibility of a solar hot water system. The process screened out homes that would not save enough money to justify the cost of the installation or that had other factors making them unsuitable – typically due to roof structural issues. Homeowners who were screened out of the program were sent a letter with a detailed explanation. View a sample Feasibility Report below. If you want to learn more about the assumptions behind your analysis, view the Screening Notes:
A Water Conservation Initiative was part of the Solar City Pilot. There is a strong link between how much water and hot water a home uses and the sizing and performance of a solar hot water system. The pilot encouraged water conservation first and then the adoption of a renewable energy technology. Like most municipalities across Canada, water costs are going up significantly. Homeowners can benefit considerably from low cost, easy to implement water conservation efforts. As an educational component, all homeowners received a Water Conservation Tip Sheet during their solar assessment. For those on municipal water, conservation leads to a reduced water bill, while those on wells save on power through less reliance on their pump. For homeowners with a solar water heater, reducing your overall water consumption means you will increase the percentage of your hot water that will be free from the Sun!Another aspect that linked water and solar together in the Solar City pilot was the monitoring option, which allowed homeowners to see real-time hot water consumption as well as historical performance.