Complete Guide For Solar Power Alberta 2019
Congratulations! You’ve found the ultimate guide for going solar in Alberta!
Alberta is currently ranked the #1 province in the country for installing a solar power system, scoring as one of the best provinces for sunlight levels, cash rebates, and installation costs.
This page contains all available information about installing solar in Alberta including solar incentives, regional geography, electrical utilities, and access to solar, as of 2019.
You can read from top to bottom, or skip to your preferred section by clicking on it below:
Overall Solar Rating
We’ve ranked Alberta as being Canada’s best province for solar power in 2019. Alberta scores higher than most provinces because of the Efficiency Alberta’s Residential Solar Program, high levels of sunlight, relatively low installation costs, and because of a high access to installers and system financing options.
Curious to see how and why we rank the provinces the way we do? Check out the Solar Rankings Page to find out more.
Basic System Information
When thinking about solar power, the first questions that often come to a person’s mind are:
- “How big does my solar system need to be?”
- “Can I completely offset my electricity usage?”
- “How much will it cost?”
This section is intended to answer these basic questions before going into the details about installing solar in Alberta.
Sizing Your System
Determining the size of system you need is as simple as knowing how much energy you use during the course of a year. Your monthly AB Power Bill will show your usage (in kWh) similar to the photo below:
You’ll need to figure out how much energy you use in a year by adding up the amount shown for 12 consecutive months. Note that taking one month and multiplying by 12 won’t work because energy use fluctuates depending on the season.
After you know how much energy you use, you can easily calculate the size of the solar power system that you’ll need by using the following equation:
Size of system needed (in kW) = yearly energy use (in kWh) / 1,276h
(where 1,276h equals the annual average equivalent of full sunlight hours in Alberta)
So let’s pretend you added up your power bills and determined that you use 10,000kWh over the course of a year, you would then do the above calculation and determine that you need a 7.84kW solar panel system!
10,000kWh / 1,276h = 7.84kW
Now that you know the size of your system, you’ll want to determine the best place to put it. Most residential homeowners in Alberta put the solar panels on their roof, while most rural homeowners put them on the roof of their house, shop, or on the ground in their yard.
If you’re putting solar panels on your roof, you should know:
- A south facing roof is best, east and west facing are good, north facing is just OK
- Output on panels are guaranteed for 25 years, so you may need to replace your shingles (or entire roof) before installing
- If you’re concerned about snow, know that roof mounted panels are harder to clean off
- Your roof’s pitch (slope) is not the most optimal angle for solar production
If you’re putting solar panels on the ground, you should know:
- These systems are more expensive upfront due to piling requirements, mounting materials, and power line trenching…
- … But are cheaper in the long term because they are more efficient (see next point)
- They can be easily placed to avoid shading, to the optimal direction (south), and to the optimal angle (~45°)
- Systems can be much larger than roof mounted ones
Cost of Installation
The last piece of basic information that you’ll want to know is an approximation of how much your system will cost. To calculate this you’ll need to know the size of the system you plan to install (see previous section).
The rough calculation is simple. Just take the size of your system and multiply it by the $2.89/Watt (the average cost of installing a solar system in Alberta). Using the example from the sizing section, we can see that a 7.84kW system would cost approximately $22,658 to install.
System cost = size needed x cost per installed watt
= 7,840Watts x $2.89/Watt
Please note that the exact price of the system depends on several factors including the system size, the quality of equipment used, and the complexity of the job. Even the range in the chart above is just for the average – installation prices can easily go as high as $3.50/Watt for premium equipment installed by the highest quality installers.
Major Program: Efficiency Alberta
Savings: 35% or $0.90/watt
Expiring: March 2021
Alberta is the most abundant province in the country when it comes to solar energy rebates and energy efficiency incentives. This section briefly covers the energy incentives available to homeowners, a more in-depth explanation of each can be found on the Alberta Incentives Page.
Some important things to keep in mind:
- Per Watt. Most solar rebates in the province are awarded based on the size of the system you install in units of Watts. Jump back up to the Sizing Section if you don’t understand what this means.
- Eligible Costs. Most rebates have a maximum funding amount that is based on a percentage of total eligible expenses. In general, eligible expenses include the full cost of materials and installation, but not the cost of taxes.
- Qualified Installation. Finally, rebates in Alberta must meet certain installation qualifications. This often includes the stipulation that the system must be approved under Alberta’s Micro-Generation Legislation and be installed by a qualified installer with CSA approved electric equipment.
- Application. Rebate applications, including all paperwork, should be handled entirely by your installation company. We’ve vetted our installation partners to ensure they are capable of doing this for you.
Solar Rebates & Tax Credits
The largest solar rebate program in Alberta is the Energy Efficiency Alberta Residential and Commercial Solar Program.
This program allows property owners to earn a cash rebate for solar system installations depending on what type of utility customer you are:
- Maximum of $10,000 or 35% of eligible costs, whichever is less
Commercial & Institutional
- Up to max of $1,000,000 or 35% of eligible costs, whichever is less
- Up to max of $1,000,000 or 35% of eligible costs, whichever is less
Here is what the savings would look like if we used the same size system from the sizing section:
(7,840 watts) x ($0.90/watt) = $7,056
The average Albertan can offset their power consumption with a 7.84kW system (7,840 Watts) which will come with a rebate of $7,056.
Other Energy Incentives
Alberta also has a number of other solar rebates available to homeowners:
- Banff Solar Photovoltaic Production Incentive
- For Banff Residents
- Rebate of $0.75/Watt up to a maximum of $5,625
- Brazeau County Municipal Energy Efficiency Rebate Program
- For Brazeau County Residents
- Rebate of $0.75/Watt up to a maximum of $10,000
- Canmore Solar Incentive
- For Canmore Residents
- Incentive of $1,250 with a minimum system size of 2.5kW
- Change Homes for Climate Solar Program
- For City of Edmonton Residents
- Rebate of $0.15/Watt up to a maximum of $6,500
- Medicine Hat Solar Electric Rebate
- For City of Medicine Hat Residents
- Rebate of $0.70/Watt up to a maximum of $5,000
- Energy efficiency rebates are also available through the HAT Smart Rebate Program.
- Equs Solar Incentive
- For Equs customers
- Incentive of $0.10/Watt up to a maximum of $500
Municipalities in Alberta can apply for the Alberta Municipal Solar Program and earn a rebate of up to $0.90 per Watt. Applicants to this program cannot apply to the Efficiency Alberta Solar Program.
Indigenous and First Nations settlements, councils, and organizations can apply to the Alberta Indigenous Solar Program. Funding is available for up to 80% of eligible system expenses. Applicant to this program cannot apply to the Efficiency Alberta Solar Program.
Farm owners in Alberta have access to the Growing Forward On-Farm Solar Photovoltaics Program issued through Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. The program allows Albertan farms with a distribution class of Farm, Irrigation, Grain Drying, or equivalent to apply for the rebate program:
System Size ≤ 100kW
- Up to max of 35% of eligible costs
System Size 100.01kW – 150kW
- Up to max of 27% of eligible costs
Farmers who apply for the On-Farm Solar Photovoltaics Program cannot apply for the Energy Efficiency Alberta Residential and Commercial Solar Program. The On-Farm Program also stipulates that solar systems must:
- Be positioned to optimize sunshine
- Have manufacturer warranties on all modules, racking, and inverters.
Businesses can now use the Federal Tax Provision for Clean Energy Equipment to fully expense their solar system. This means a CCA rate of 100% and the abolishment of the first year rule.
Remember, energyhub.org also has a special solar incentive. It’s not huge, but it’s easy to claim – just send us a picture of your installation or purchase agreement with one of our certified energy installers. Full details on the energyhub.org Cash Incentive Page.
Production Efficiency: 1276kWh/kW/yr
Average Energy Use: 118GJ/yr
In terms of available natural resources and homeowner energy demand, Alberta is one of the best provinces in the country to install solar. This section briefly covers the amount of sunlight that Alberta receives (solar irradiation) as well as energy demand from homeowners.
Alberta has the second highest potential to produce solar energy in all of Canada, receiving more solar irradiation than any other province or territory other than Saskatchewan!
According to data from National Resources Canada, the average solar system in Alberta can produce 1276kWh of electricity per kW of solar panels per year.
Here is how much an average solar system can produce each month, as well as the solar irradiation potential map for Alberta:
This yearly average decreases as you move north and west in the province and increases as you move south and east. For example:
- A 1kW solar system in Calgary would produce about 1,292 kWh/yr
- A 1kW solar system in Edmonton would produce about 1,246 kWh/yr
- A 1kW solar system in Red Deer would produce about 1,265 kWh/yr
- A 1kW solar system in Lethbridge would produce about 1,330 kWh/yr
- A 1kW solar system in Sherwood Park would produce 1,246 kWh/yr
For comparison, here is what a 6 kW solar array looks like in Calgary:
Total Energy Demand
The average household in Alberta uses 118GJ of energy per year – that’s the equivalent of 32,800 kWh of electricity! And although most homes only use about a third of that (because of gas heating), the number still demonstrates a strong need for energy generation and energy efficiency technologies.
In sum, at least for the average homeowner, it is completely possible to offset one’s yearly power bill with a solar system system.
Variable Costs: $0.15/kWh
Fixed Costs: $30/mo
Setup Fees: None
Alberta is one of the best provinces in the country to switch to solar power in terms of utility related factors. This section covers how the costs of electricity as well as solar setup fees affect of the feasibility of solar in Alberta.
Variable Electricity Costs
Variable electricity rates determine the maximal amount of money that can be saved by switching to solar – ie. they represent the portion of your power bill that goes to zero when you don’t use any energy. Thus the relatively high rates in Alberta ($0.15/Watt) means that the average homeowner has a lot to save with solar.
Fixed Electricity Costs
On the other hand, fixed electricity costs are not so good because they don’t disappear even if you switch to solar power – you’ll pay them as long as you remain connected to the grid. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – $30/mo is a small price to pay for using the grid as your energy back-up and virtual energy storage device!
The only way to completely remove your fixed costs are to go off the grid, something most homeowners don’t do due to the large price and maintenance costs of battery storage. Plus, disconnecting from the grid means you won’t be able to participate in a net metering program.
Net Metering Policy
Net Metering is one of the most important policy mechanisms that makes solar a feasible energy generation option. Net Metering, or Net Billing as it’s called in Alberta, essentially means that you can send the excess energy that you produce (during the day the summer) back to the electricity grid and earn credits for that energy at the same retail rate that you buy it for.
These credits can then be used to offset your energy usage during times when your solar system doesn’t produce as much energy as is needed (during the night and winter). Without this mechanism, you would need to purchase an extremely costly set of batteries.
Alberta’s Micro-Generation Regulation allows for systems up to 150kW in size to be connected to the grid for net billing.
Solar Setup Fees
Alberta’s Micro-generation Regulation also dictates that you don’t need to pay for an interconnection study or a bi-directional meter when you switch to solar power. This is opposed to many provinces like its two neighbours to the east, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, where interconnection and bi-directional meter fees can reach over $1000!
Access To Solar
Upfront Cost: $2.89/Watt
Installer Access: High
A completely new section to this year’s Alberta solar guide, Access to Solar explores the major accessibility factors in the province.
Cost of Installation
The upfront cost of installation is obviously one of the largest factors that determines whether or not a person is going to switch to solar. The current prices in Alberta range from $2.50-$3.50 with the average price being somewhere around $2.89.
The price changes depending on a variety of factors:
- The size of system required (larger systems are cheaper on a per Watt basis)
- The complexity and/or specific requirements of the job
- The type and quality of equipment used
- The quality of the installation company
Remember, you can easily calculate the total estimated cost of your system in the Basics Section at the top of this page.
In general, aiming for the cheapest price shouldn’t be your goal. Remember that the energy output on solar equipment is guaranteed for 25 years, so you want to make sure that your installation job is good enough to support that. You’ll also want to be sure that the company you choose will be around in 5 to 10 years from now in case you need service or warranty work done.
Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) is an innovative financing option that allows you to cover the entire upfront cost of your solar system (or energy efficiency upgrades) with a $0 down, long amortization period, low interest ‘loan’.
However, unlike a typical loan, this loan is attached to your property (not you) and is paid back alongside your property tax bill as a Clean Energy Improvement Tax. The only eligibility is that you need to own between 10% and 15% of your home.
Note that since the ‘loan’ is paid back through your property tax, Alberta is now experiencing a buffer period where municipalities must write their own regulations to make PACE possible. It’s expected that the first PACE loans will be granted towards the end of 2019.
Since An Act to Enable Clean Energy Improvements was passed in June 2018, the province has been preparing for PACE financing. It is anticipated that Energy Efficiency Alberta will be the program administrator of the Alberta PACE program while the Alberta Climate Change Office will assist in the initial program design.
Other Financing Options
Obviously though, PACE is not the only way to finance a solar system. Systems can be financed by cash, bank loans, installer financing, home equity loans, a home equity line of credit, a mortgages (for new builds), or through energy loans.
Several options exists for Albertan homeowners:
- ATB Financial (energy loan)
- As low as prime +2%
- Up to 15 years amortization
- ATB contact number: 1-800-332-8383
- RBC Energy Saver Loan (energy loan)
- Up to 10 years amortization
- RBC contact number: 1-800-769-2511
- TD Bank (various options)
- TD contact number: 1-866-389-8888
- CMHC Mortgage Loan Premium Rebate
Access to Installers
The final category that we ranked for this year’s Alberta solar guide is the access to reputable and high quality solar installers. And fortunately, Alberta has no shortage of them.
Solar Power Alberta: Summary
Because of Alberta’s 35% solar rebate, affordable installation prices, and high levels of sunlight – we rank Alberta as being the #1 province in the country for switching to solar power.
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