The Cost of Solar Panels in BC
There’s a reason why solar photovoltaic (PV) systems are on the rise throughout much of rural British Columbia. Regions like the Okanagan are home to countless food producers, vineyards, farms, and other businesses – many of which have enormous energy requirements. And to offset skyrocketing utility bills, they’re increasingly turning to clean sunshine to power their operations.
Moreover, this trend isn’t limited to the commercial sector. A growing number of residential BC customers are also going solar as well. This is especially true among those who warm their homes with electric heating.
You might also be thinking about installing Solar panels on your own home or facility for the reasons listed above. Before you do, however, it’s important you understand the various components that make up the cost of a successful Solar PV project. This analysis is essential when determining whether solar is the right fit for you.
1. Solar Equipment Costs
Solar panels and components used to represent the largest share of total solar installation costs. But thanks to technological innovations and economies of scale, equipment costs have fallen dramatically in recent years. In fact, panel prices have gone down by more than 80% since 2010.
Although it’s tempting to delay going solar with the hopes of capitalizing on future price drops, you’ll see below why waiting is often the more expensive option.
2. Ground-Mounted vs. Rooftop Solar
Another important consideration is the type of solar PV installation you want – with the 2 main options being ground-mounted or rooftop.
Ground-mounted PV systems typically cost up to 15% more per installed watt. However, they can produce anywhere from 10% to 25% more energy than a rooftop installation – meaning you don’t have to install as large a system when exploring ground-mounted solutions. As a result, the total cost ends up being roughly the same – regardless of which installation type you choose. However, if you need help deciding, EVOLVsolar can determine the optimal solution for your needs – after conducting a free property inspection.
3. Solar Net Metering
Net metering is a green energy incentive that allows you to sell excess solar electricity to your utility provider. Most provinces in Western Canada currently have some form of net metering, crediting customers approximately half of what they pay for utility power – between $0.04 to 0.075/kWh.
However, BC offers “full” net metering, meaning you’re credited for your solar power at the same rates you pay for utility power. This allows you to generate between $0.11 and $0.14/kWh, which is nearly double what other provinces offer. As an added bonus, British Columbia doesn’t have any provincial sales tax (PST) on solar installations, meaning you enjoy an additional 7% in savings.
Just keep in mind that these generous rates may not be around forever. Net metering programs are usually administered on a graduated schedule, with early adopters enjoying the highest benefits. Latecomers typically receive far lower rates, which will impact your overall return on investment. You might qualify for cheaper panels if you wait. But you won’t receive the full Net Metering benefits once your system comes online.
4. Solar Installation Workmanship
A well-installed PV system can last 30+ years with minimal maintenance. By contrast, shoddy workmanship often leads to poor performance, frequent repairs, higher costs, and fewer savings. As such, working with experienced installers who back their workmanship, use high-quality components, and offer rock solid support will result in a lower cost for your system in the long-run.
5. The Cost of Utility Electricity
Another component that impacts the relative cost of going solar is how much you pay for utility power. The more expensive grid electricity is, the more you can save by installing Solar panels.
With BC Hydro, for example:
- Residential customers pay $0.095 for their first 675kWh and $0.1417 per kWh after
- Most commercial customers (including farms, orchards, and vineyards) pay about $0.12/kWh
But keep in mind that utility rates worldwide are on the rise – a reflection of growing electricity demand, infrastructure upgrades, and dwindling supplies of cheap fossil fuel sources. And this means that the relative cost of installing solar power will only continue to decrease over time.
However, there is one more piece of the puzzle.
6. Solar Returns and Payback Periods
Whether to go solar ultimately depends on how much you pay upfront – compared to how much you save over the lifetime of your clean power investment. Imagine, for example, a large rural property that uses 25,000kWh of electricity a year. In an area like the Okanagan, that facility would need a 21kW ground-mounted solar PV installation to offset its annual electricity needs. And at today’s prices, such a system would cost around $55,000.
Assuming current inflation trends, that 21kW solar installation would pay for itself in 11 years and deliver an additional 20+ years of monthly savings. That’s an ROI of roughly 10%, which is right in line with Canada’s S&P/TSX Composite index. But unlike with the stock market, your solar returns are risk-free. As long as the sun keeps rising every morning, your savings are guaranteed. And those savings will only increase as grid electricity prices continue going up. That’s because your PV panels help to shield you from future rate increases.
Is Solar Power the Right Fit for You?
Every business and homeowner is unique. But if you’re struggling to keep up with rising energy costs, it’s worth running through the numbers. Solar PV is a proven technology that delivers measurable savings that start on Day 1 and continue to grow for the next 30+ years.
Let us help you determine whether solar power is the right fit for your home or business. To get started, request a free property inspection from our energy experts today.