Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I talk to someone about the Solar City Program?
2. Who is eligible?
3. How can I register? 
4. How do I pay? 
5. How does the Solar City Program work?
6. Who do I contact to complete my solar assessment?
7. I participated in the pilot program, can I participate again?
8. What is the cost to the municipality?
9. What type of solar technology is right for me?
10. How much will I pay for my solar installation?
11. What is Solar Hot Water?
12. When will my solar energy system pay for itself and what is the long-term return on investment (ROI)?
13. Why does the municipality want to do this?
14. I’m building a new house and thinking about solar, what should I do?
15. What is net metering and how does it affect a solar photovoltaic (PV) system? How much money will I get for producing electricity from an installed solar PV system? 
16. How long will it take to get my solar electric system installed? 
17. How does the Solar City financing work? 
18. What if I install a system and it gets blocked by future development?
 

1. Can I talk to someone about the Solar City program?
Of course! Please send an email and someone on our Solar City team will be in touch with you. You can also call our Solar City Office at 902.490.6821.


2. Who is eligible?
The following property owners may participate in the Solar City program, providing the property is within the municipal boundaries and is in good financial standing with the municipality:
•    Residential property owners
•    Not for profits
•    Places of worship
•    Co-ops
•    Charities


3. How can I register?
Fill in the online form. We will ask for information relating to your property, along with your property assessment number. After registering, you will be notified if you qualify for the program and be sent an email with a unique Solar City project identification number (ID) and instructions on how to proceed with your project.


4. How do I pay?
The capital cost of your system is repaid over a ten-year term through the municipality’s Local Improvement Charge (LIC) financing structure at a fixed rate of 4.75%. An LIC is a lien on your property, which means the property carries the project cost. The bill is separate from your property tax bill. It is possible to repay the system in its entirety, as a lump sum, without penalty at any point during the 10-year period. You can set up a Pre-Authorized Payment plan to repay bi-weekly or monthly instead of annual payments depending on your needs. You can also make payments with cash, debit card, money order or cheque.


5. How does the Solar City program work?
Here are six steps to help explain the overall program.

Property owners have the option of installing three types of solar technologies (photovoltaic, hot air, and hot water). Depending on the site, an owner may benefit from one technology over another or a hybrid option. Solar City encourages industry to improve existing programs and offerings by providing property owners with the option to finance the installation with the municipality's low-interest Local Improvement Charge (LIC) in addition to any available rebates or additional incentives. By opening the program to contractors that meet specific terms and conditions, Solar City enables the solar industry to participate more broadly than was possible in the pilot program.

To be eligible for funding, all applicants must provide a feasibility report, supporting calculations, as well as and technical and specification sheets for all hardware. The technology must meet applicable CSA standards and the solar contractor must provide proof of specific requirements that ensure a quality installation. Please note all solar photovoltaic (PV) installations must meet the permitting requirements and interconnection agreements with Nova Scotia Power.


6. Who do I contact to complete my solar assessment?
It's up to you! The program is open to the market so you may select any technology & contractor you wish. Once a contractor is selected, they will be subjected to a third-party review by the municipality to ensure the contractor: 

•             has third party liability insurance and is in good standing with the Workers Compensation board
•             has applied for a mandatory municipal solar building permit, complete with an engineering stamped structural analysis
•             has applied for a mandatory electrical permit which will ensure the system is going to be installed per the Canadian Electrical Code
•             is supplying certified equipment for use in Nova Scotia
The municipality will also review the full system proposal to ensure it is designed to code and the feasibility assessment provided by the contractor is accurate. 

Tips for selecting a solar contractor. Solar NS has an online directory of installers who have agreed to follow the Solar Nova Scotia Code of Ethics that was adopted from the Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA).


7. I participated in the pilot program, can I participate again?
Yes.


8. What is the cost to the municipality?
Solar City program is designed for cost recovery. This means the program delivery costs will be financed separately from other capital expenses so they aren't passed on to the general tax base. It is designed as a user-pay model that is financially self-sustaining and does not compete with the municipality's other capital needs.


9. What type of solar technology is right for me?
It depends. Your solar contractor will help you select the best solar technology for your property based on the site and your needs. One solar technology might be better than others or a combination may be more suitable.

 

10. How much will I pay for my solar installation?
It depends. Ask your solar contractor for an estimate for your particular situation. You can choose to finance the full cost of your system or a portion of the costs.

 

11. What is Solar Hot Water? 
A solar water heater acts as a pre-heater for your existing water heating system. Instead of heating water from about 7°C, you will be heating water from about 40°C (depending on factors such as time of day, time of year, weather and hot water usage, etc.). This reduces the demand on your existing system, thus displacing energy usage in your conventional system. A solar water heater may be integrated with virtually any type of existing water heater, including electric, instantaneous, oil (stand-alone tank, instantaneous coil in your boiler), etc. Solar hot water heating systems can also be installed to offset space heating and pool heating. 

 

12. When will my solar energy system pay for itself and what is the long-term return on investment (ROI)?
Calculating a simple payback (total cost divided by annual savings) is a common way business decisions are made. However, this method does not take into account rising energy costs or the life expectancy of the system and future savings. The Return on Investment (ROI) assumes a conservative 25-year life of the solar energy system (they can typically operate for more than 30 years). This allows for a life cycle analysis that considers the increase in savings over time.

Other financial benefits to think about: If you finance your solar energy system, you will also reach a point when the annual savings are greater than the annual payments (thus creating a positive cash flow).

The ROI is a conservative calculation as it assumes a 25-year lifespan of the solar installation, although it is common for these systems to last more than 30 years.


13. Why does the municipality want to do this?
The Solar City program will increase awareness of solar energy, make solar technology more accessible to residents by removing the barrier of upfront capital costs, and engage the public on energy, environmental and economic sustainability issues.

This initiative also aligns with the municipality's economic development strategy. Solar energy systems represent local, labour-intensive renewable energy technologies. Developing local labour capacity and expertise beyond what already exists is an important aspect of the initiative.

Through this program, participating residents will divert some of their energy expenditures into the local economy which in turn supports our local, quickly expanding “green industry”. 

Through the Regional Plan and the Community Energy Plan, incubating community renewable energy projects is an objective of the municipality. Even though solar potential in the Halifax region is exceptional, residents have yet to take advantage. This program will help property owners overcome obstacles by directing residents to solar industry experts and arranging for system financing. This program will help property owners overcome obstacles by directing residents to solar industry experts and arranging for system financing.


14. I’m building a new house and thinking about solar, what should I do?
Regardless of what type of solar energy system you are considering, thinking about solar during new construction is an excellent idea. Considering your home will last more than 100 years and solar technology is rapidly evolving in cost and performance. Even if you don’t install a system initially, you can greatly lower the cost and increase the performance of a future system by making some small investments during new construction – usually for less than $500.

Natural Resource Canada has produced two excellent guides, Solar Ready Guidelines and a Builder’s Specification for Solar Ready Homes. Additional Solar Ready information can be found on NRCan’s website and on the Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA) website. The most important considerations for solar readiness are the roof pitch, orientation and attention to structural components. New construction is also the only time to consider passive solar design which allows you to greatly reduce your heating and cooling needs by 30-60% with very little additional cost. Solar Nova Scotia can offer resources to assist.

 

15. What is net metering and how does it affect a solar photovoltaic (PV) system? How much money will I get for producing electricity from an installed solar PV system?

If you install a solar PV system, you will be required to enter into an Interconnection Agreement with Nova Scotia Power to receive an electrical permit to produce electricity from your system. It is a requirement when applying for Solar City funding (Step 2) that an Interconnection Agreement request is in place with Nova Scotia Power. The Solar City program requires a net metering application and the supporting technical documentation has been submitted to Nova Scotia Power. The completed Interconnection Agreement is required to be provided as part of the final project completion report.

Your solar contractor will work with you to ensure your solar PV equipment matches the standards and specifications required by Nova Scotia Power to harness the potential to generate electricity from the sun and provide additional power that you don’t use at your property back to the grid. The municipality has not negotiated any special rates for Solar City program customers. It is expected that each individual system will be site and size-specific and have different characteristics which results in variations in the cost of power – it is up to property owners and solar contractors to assess the solar PV system costs and benefits and how a net-metering rate may affect the return on investment.

Currently, net metering is defined by Nova Scotia Power as:
“If your generating unit produces more energy than you use at any one time, the extra electricity will flow onto the local grid for others to use. On the other hand, if your generator isn’t producing as much as you need, you can still draw from the grid to make up the difference. When
you become a net metering customer, we’ll install a bi-directional electricity meter to monitor and record the flow of electricity to and from your home or business. If at the end of billing period you’ve produced more energy than you’ve used, you’ll receive a credit on your next bill. If at the end of a year you’ve still produced more electricity than you’ve used, we’ll provide a cash payment for the surplus energy that has not already been applied to your power bill at a rate equal to the cost of energy from the grid.


16. How long will it take to get my solar electric system installed?

On average, it will take between 4 and 6 months from the time you sign your Solar City Participant Agreement to when your solar electric system is fully installed and operating. Once approved for financing by the Solar City Program, your Solar Contractor will apply for all required permits, available rebates and approval in Nova Scotia Power's Enhanced Net Metering Program. These approvals are not completed by the municipality so please reach out to your contractor for updates. When all approvals have been received, the installation can begin. You can expect three inspections before your system is commissioned. These inspections include:
•    An electrical rough in inspection performed by Nova Scotia Power;
•    A final electrical inspection performed by Nova Scotia Power; and
•    A final building inspection performed by the Halifax Regional Municipality.
All inspections will be scheduled by your solar contractor. When the final electrical inspection is complete, Nova Scotia Power will install your bi-directional meter within 2 to 4 weeks. You will see a one time charge for this meter on your next Nova Scotia Power bill. This charge is not covered by your contractor or the Solar City Program. 

17. How does Solar City Financing work?

Financing is applied to the property and not the individual, similar to a standard Local Improvement Charge (LIC). There are no credit checks required to confirm eligibility however, property owners must be in good financial standing with respect to property taxes, LICs, and any other relevant municipal charges. Financing is repaid separately from the annual property tax bill at a fixed interest rate of 4.75% over ten years. Property owners have the option to pay in full at any time without penalty. If a participant sells their property before full repayment, they have the option to pay in full at the point of sale or pass the charge to the next property owner.

Upon project completion, your solar contractor will be paid in full and you be mailed a 10-year schedule of payments outlining the total amount due per year. The annual amount due will be 1/10th of the principal plus interest on the remaining balance. Interest is calculated annually and accrued daily. Any available rebates are to be obtained by the property owner as they will not be subtracted from the total amount due. Your solar contractor will assist you in completing the necessary rebate forms. All property owners have the option of paying any amount, interest free, within the first six weeks of being invoiced. Aside from this six-week period, property owners can pay any amount at any time (bi-weekly, monthly etc.), providing that the minimum annual principal and any accrued interest is met in each year.

18. What if I install a system and it gets blocked by future development?

Unfortunately there are no “right to light” policies that exist in the municipality today. Relevant policies may be investigated through the implementation of  HalifACT 2050, the municipality’s long term climate action plan. In the interim, if you plan to install a solar energy system at your property, please review the Land Use By-law of your area to determine what future development is possible.