Complete Guide For Solar Power Northwest Territories 2019
Congratulations! You’ve found the ultimate guide for going solar in the Northwest Territories!
The Northwest Territories is currently ranked being tied for the #3 best province/territory in the country for installing a solar power system, scoring as one of the best provinces for solar incentives and for having very high electricity costs.
This page contains all available information about installing solar in the Northwest Territories 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 the Northwest Territories as being tied for Canada’s fourth best province for solar power in 2019. The Northwest Territories scores higher than most provinces because of the Alternative Energy Technologies Program, moderate sunlight levels, and for having the highest electricity prices in the country.
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 the Northwest Territories.
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 Northland Utilities Power Bill (or NTPC 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) / 1,064h
(where 1,064h equals the annual average equivalent of full sunlight hours in the Northwest Territories)
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 9.40kW solar panel system!
10,000kWh / 1,064h = 9.40kW
Now that you know the size of your system, you’ll want to determine the best place to put it. Most residential homeowners in the Northwest Territories 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 $3/Watt (the average cost of installing a solar system in the Northwest Territories). Using the example from the sizing section, we can see that a 9.40kW system would cost approximately $28,200 to install.
System cost = size needed x cost per installed watt
= 9,400Watts x $3/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 $4/Watt for premium equipment installed by the highest quality installers.
Major Program: Energy Technologies Program
The Northwest Territories is has a major solar rebate program and several other solar incentive programs. This section briefly covers the energy incentives available to homeowners. A more in-depth explanation of each can be found on the Northwest Territories Incentives Page.
Some important things to keep in mind:
- 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 the Northwest Territories must meet certain installation qualifications including the use of 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 the Northwest Territories is the Alternative Energy Technologies Program (AETP). The program allows property owners to receive a 33% rebate on the total cost a solar system including installation up to a maximum rebate amount of $5,000.
Here is what the savings would look like if we used the same system from the sizing section:
($28,200) x 20% =
$5,640 = $5,000
The average NWT homeowner can offset their power consumption with a 9.40kW system (9,400 Watts) which will come with rebate of $5,000.
Other Energy Incentives
The Northwest Territories also has a number of other solar rebates available to homeowners:
- Energy Efficiency Incentive Program
- For NWT residents
- Incentives for ENERGY STAR appliances, heating equipment, air sealing, insulation, and more
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: 1064kWh/kW/yr
Average Energy Use: 109GJ/yr
In terms of available natural resources and homeowner energy demand, the Northwest Territories is one of the best provinces in the country to install solar. This section briefly covers the amount of sunlight that the Northwest Territories receives (solar irradiation) as well as energy demand from homeowners.
The Northwest Territories has the fourth lowest potential to produce solar energy in all of Canada, receiving less solar irradiation than any other province or territory other than BC, Newfoundland, and the Yukon.
According to data from National Resources Canada, the average solar system in the Northwest Territories can produce 1064kWh 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 the NWT:
This yearly average decreases as you move north in the province and increases as you move south. For example:
- A 1kW solar system in Yellowknife would produce about 1,095 kWh/yr
- A 1kW solar system in Hay River would produce about 1,125 kWh/yr
- A 1kW solar system in Inuvik would produce about 895 kWh/yr
- A 1kW solar system in Fort Smith would produce about 1,131 kWh/yr
- A 1kW solar system in Fort Simpson would produce 1,076 kWh/yr
Total Energy Demand
The average household in the Northwest Territories uses 109GJ of energy per year – that’s the equivalent of 30,300 kWh of electricity! And although most homes only use about a half of that (because of other forms of 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.
Variable Costs: $0.30/kWh
Fixed Costs: $18/mo
Setup Fees: Interconnection
The Northwest Territories 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 the Northwest Territories.
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 high rates in the Northwest Territories ($0.30/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 – $18/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 referred to in the NWT, 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.
The Northwest Territories Power Corporation’s Net Metering Policy allows for systems up to 15kW in size to be connected to the grid for net metering, however it’s very important to note that credits in Quebec expire on March 31st every year, thus you’ll want to work closely with your installer to make sure your system perfectly matches your energy usage.
Solar Setup Fees
However, the NWT Net Metering Policy also dictates that you need to pay a fee for an interconnection study whenever you connect a system to the grid, but not for a bi-directional meter. This is very similar to most provinces including Quebec.
Access To Solar
Upfront Cost: $3/Watt
Installer Access: Low-Medium
A completely new section to this year’s the Northwest Territories 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 the Northwest Territories range from $2.50-$4.00 with the average price being somewhere around $3.
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 Local Improvement Charge (LIC). The only eligibility is that you need to own a certain percentage of your home.
Unfortunately, no PACE financing option currently exists in the NWT.
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 Northwest Territories homeowners:
- 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 the Northwest Territories solar guide is the access to reputable and high quality solar installers. And while NWT is currently scored low, there are more and more installers from Alberta that are beginning to serve the NWT at relatively low cost.
Solar Power Northwest Territories: Summary
Because of the Northwest Territories’ high electricity rates, 33% solar rebate, and decent sunlight levels – we rank NWT as being tied for the #3 best province in the country for switching to solar power.
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