Friday, October 20, 2006

Solar power blues

A year ago or so I installed solar hot water heating in our house (a solar panel on the roof and a heat exchanger in the basement which heats the water for the regular hot water tank). Supposedly it will supply about 50% of our hot water over the year which, with the rather spartan amounts we use, may (or may not) pay back its cost in about 20-25 years, if we are still alive then, still in this house, etc, etc. Anyway, it seemed like the kind of thing a good global citizen should be doing, (especially in country like Canada which is now 30% over our Kyoto targets for greenhouse emissions, and getting worse), and and it does have a certain undeniable coolness factor.
So, I have recently been looking into generating solar electricity with a photovoltaic (PV) array on the roof. What prompted this was the upcoming Ontario legislation called the Standard Offer Contract (SOC) whereby they will pay 42¢/kWh for power generated by PV, which compared to the 8.3¢/kWh we pay Bullfrog for our electricity at the moment seems like a pretty good deal. It's still a 20 year payback period according to my calculations but, hey, we're not going anywhere for a while...
However, the more I look into it the more I come across vaguely-worded small print about Ontario Energy Board fees, possible large costs for new meters, new utility account fees, etc. To be fair, the program is still in the planning phase (although an official definitive release is supposed to happen "this fall"), but what initially sounded like a good, green investment is starting to look distinctly shaky from a financial perspective.

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