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Solar power systems and the benefits of solar energy 

The sun is perhaps the single greatest source of clean, renewable energy we have available to us. But in order to harness solar energy we need solar technologies that can convert it into electricity or heat, which can be used or stored through our electricity grid and electricity distribution system. ​​

Do we get enough sunlight in Edmonton for solar panels? 

According to Environment Canada, Edmonton is the third sunniest city in Canada. Alberta has the highest number of sunny days in Canada, with an average per year of 312 days of sunshine. That equates to a ratio of 6 sunny days for every 1 day that is not sunny. Edmonton has an even higher average as we tend to get closer to 325 days of sunshine per year. ​​​


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​​The benefits of solar power 

If you are considering making the switch to solar panel systems then you may already know some of the benefits. There are two main benefits of solar panels and solar generated power that typically stand out for home and business owners. 

  1. Solar power reduces your environmental footprint. There are no emissions of any kind with Solar PV systems – they produce 100% clean energy. The reduction of carbon dioxide and other emissions benefits everyone. Solar power is also a 100% renewable resource. Solar is the most abundant natural resource and renewable energy source we have. 
  2. There is a financial benefit to a solar powered house or business. Any excess electricity generated by the Solar PV system installed at your home or business can be exported to the grid. If you have notified your retailer that you are an Independent Power Producer, you can receive credits for this electricity. ​​

 

How solar panels generate power

Discover how solar panels harness solar energy and convert it into power for your home or business. 

How solar panels Generate power​​​​​​​​

 

What to consider before installing solar panels 

Learn what you n​eed to know before choosing solar power for your home or business.

 What to consider​​​​​​​​

 

Selecting a solar installation company

Learn what you need to know and ask before choosing a solar panel installation company.

Selecting a solar installer​​​​​​​ ​

How solar panels generate power for your home or business

There are two primary categories of technology that harness solar energy, solar thermal energy and solar photovoltaic energy. 

  • ​Solar Photovoltaic (or PV) is a technology that converts sunlight into direct current electricity by using semiconductors. Solar panels (also called photovoltaic or PV cells) are an ex​ample of solar PV technology, and the most common method of solar power generation. 
  • Solar thermal is a technology that uses the heat from the sun for heating or electricity production.

How Solar PV panels work with your home's electrical system and the electricity grid

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​Once​ installed, solar panels convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity

Your contractor will also install an inverter between your solar panels and the main breaker panel for your home's electrical system. The inverter will convert this DC electricity to Alternating Current or (AC) electricity found in your home or business.​

The electricity will be used at your home or business and any excess electricity (power generated by your solar panels that isn't used by your site) will be sent through your power meter and onto the power grid to be used by your neighbours. 

As the electricity passes through the power meter, the meter will track the amount of energy that the power grid receives from your home. This measurement will be sent to your electricity retailer and if you have notified them, they will add a generation credit to your monthly power bill for your excess energy. 

NOTE: Once your consultant has submitted your microgeneration application, your IPP application has been approved and permits have passed, you must notify your retailer in order to receive credit for excess generation at your site.​​​​​​

Considerations before adding solar panels to your home or business 

There are a number of considerations to take into account before adding solar panels to your home or business. It is important to ensure you use a professional service for your installation, and that you understand the cost of installing solar panels in Edmonton. 

Before you reach out to a solar installation company, here is some information you may want to gather and have on hand. 

  1. ​Your electricity consumption information in kWh for the most recent 12 months. This can be found on your power bills from the last 12 months. Since annual generation (in kWh) is not permitted to exceed 100% of your annual consumption per the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC Rule 024: Rules Respecting Micro-Generation). This information will allow your solar consultant to determine the maximum generation capacity of the panels.
    • If you do not have copies of your bill, please contact your energy retailer and request your 12 month power consumption. ​
    • If your power bill is from EPCOR, you can download your 12 month power consumption data by logging into epcor.com/MyAccount. On your Account Overview page, scroll to your billing usage, select Power and then click Export. This will create an excel file with your power consumption data that you can provide to your consultant.
  2. ​​​​​​Photos of your home’s electrical panel, with the main breaker clearly shown and the brand name of the panel. This tells them if your home requires any electrical upgrades before the installation occurs. It will also let them know which type of inverter will work best with your solar PV system and your home.
  3. Knowing the pitch of your roof is also helpful and can be found on your home's building plans. This will help determine if your roof is at the ideal angle to get the most benefit from the solar PV system or if adjustments may need to be made to the angle of the panels. ​​​

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Are solar panels right for your home or business? 

A good solar contractor will help you evaluate what factors to take into consideration when you are thinking about adding a solar PV system to your home or business. For example, what direction your roof faces, are there trees or other structures that may block the sun from reaching the panels, any other reasons why the solar modules may not receive full sun exposure or have intermittent exposure.​​

Selecting a solar panel installation company

When selecting a solar contractor there are a few things we recommend you consider before you start the process. We recommend you get at least three quotes from separate contractors. For a list of qualified installers in your area, visit Solar Alberta for a list for solar service providers​. When reviewing service providers make sure to keep these things in mind:

  • Check their ratings and/or references.
  • Are they a certified PV installation Company?
  • What warranties do they offer?

The Contractor should make a site visit to your home or business in order to do a full assessment of your needs and to help determine things like:

  • Best location for the solar panels and the size of the system they would recommend.
  • Condition of your roof, will it be able to support the weight of the solar panels or will it need work first?
  • Is your electrical panel service large enough or will a service upgrade be required.

Make sure you ask for a detailed quote and economic analysis. Ensure all responsibilities and costs are included, for example: complete installation and all costs, who is responsible for pulling permits and arranging inspection, grid connection, stamped engineering drawings, warranty support, etc.

Lastly, be sure to ask about what systems they have in place for monitoring the performance of your system. Your solar contractor may also be aware if there are solar rebates available at the time your solar PV system is installed, and may be able to assist you in applying for them.​​​

​What to consider for tracking your solar panel systems generation

One question you may still have is how to know if your power meter is set up to track how much excess energy comes from your home or business? It is important to understand that all advanced power meters in Edmonton are bi-directional. This means they measure the flow of electricity delivered to your home and received from your home.

If you are unsure about advanced meters or what your home or business has, learn more about them in our Advanced Meters section. 

Please note that if you would like to receive credits for the excess electricity from your site, you must notify your chosen power retailer of your micro-generation status.

Why do I need to sign an agreement with EPCOR to produce my own electricity?

Electrical installations, like the addition of solar panels or a power service upgrade, are subject to strict legal and municipal regulations including relevant health and safety legislation. As there is the potential for power to be put on the power grid, the Alberta Utilities Commission Requires you enter into an agreeme​nt with your power distributor to become an Independent Power Producer (IPP). This is outlined in AUC Rule 024: Rules Respecting Micro-Generation. 

The electrical consultant you hire to build and install your solar panel system will coordinate your IPP agreement with EPCOR.