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1 f a c t s h e e t 7 Solar Power Production photo by Alex Nikada Why solar? Solar systems provide a range of flexible heating and electricity options and are particularly wellsuited to remote or off-grid locations. Solar power technologies have improved rapidly in recent years and the use of solar is growing, in part because it provides a renewable and clean source of energy. As with other clean technologies, solar power is a good option for agricultural producers and food processors seeking to reduce their carbon footprints and to market the low carbon/environmental attributes of their products. Production of solar power can provide agricultural producers and food processors with greater independence from the grid and fluctuating energy costs. Solar power can heat water and buildings, dry agricultural products and generate electrical energy for lights and appliances. If sufficient power is generated, solar power may also be an economic diversification opportunity. The power of solar Germany and Japan are the global leaders in solar power generation. There were 1,300,000 solar plants in Germany in 2006, including 220,000 new plants developed that year alone.1 Because the initial investment in solar technology is costly, a common incentive for growth is a feed-in tariff (a premium) for solar power added to the grid. In Ontario, efforts to increase production of solar power include the Ontario Power Authority s Standard Offer Program which offers Solar Photovoltaic generators a fixed price of 42.0 cents per kilowatt hour for a 20 year period. 1 see Navigation/Englisch/solar-power.html BC Agriculture & Food Climate Action Initiative www. BCAgClimateAction.ca fact sheet 7 (June 2009) 1

2 photo by Daniel Schoenen Solar power has been slower to catch on in British Columbia. Nonetheless, the BC government has set a target of 100,000 solar roof installations. Rebates and incentives are available to encourage homeowners and developers to install solar systems. In addition, there are an increasing number of incentives available to businesses in Canada willing to invest in solar technology. Solar systems & their applications There are three main mechanisms for collecting solar energy: passive solar systems, solar heat collectors and photovoltaic collectors. Passive solar systems are the simplest and oldest use of solar energy trapping and storing energy in buildings. However, passive solar can be maximized by strategic positioning of buildings, use of concrete or ceramic floors and low-emissivity windows. Solar heat collectors absorb solar radiation and intensify it by concentrating it. Solar heat collectors are used for water and space heating as well as for cooling and power production. These collectors use air, water, steam or thermal fluids to transfer the heat to the location of application. A range of solar heat collectors can be utilized including: flat plate collectors, evacuated tubes, solar water heating systems, solar wall heaters, solar thermal power systems and solar cooling systems. Livestock and dairy operations are particularly good candidates for solar energy because heating requirements can be substantial. Solar air heaters can be incorporated into farm buildings to preheat incoming fresh air and to supplement ventilation in the summer. Solar energy can provide hot water for pen or equipment cleaning or it can be used to pre-heat water for conventional water heaters. Solar energy can also be valuable for greenhouses to capitalize not just on the light of the sun, but also its capacity to provide heat. Solar photovoltaic (PV) collectors convert sunlight directly into electricity. Solar PV collectors (modules) are made up of PV cells wired together in a protective container. PV cells are most commonly made of semiconductor crystalline silicon or quartz. The number of modules can be increased to provide larger amounts of power and many have warranties for 20 years or longer. PV systems are used all over the world to pump water for livestock and crops and to power remote BC Agriculture & Food Climate Action Initiative www. BCAgClimateAction.ca fact sheet 7 (June 2009) 2

3 photo by Steven Vona electric fences. The benefit of a solar pumping system for livestock is that it suits summer water needs best which is when animals most need the water. Requirements for solar power Before installing any renewable energy system, careful consideration and planning is required. Issues to consider include the following: Availability of sunlight Solar systems achieve maximum efficiency with unobstructed sunlight all day long. As this is rarely possible, ensuring an optimal location and angle will improve system performance. Rooftops or any open, sunny location can be suitable. The orientation of potential sites should also be assessed. In applications where continuous energy is required, solar energy will need to be stored and a hybrid system is likely the most viable option. Costs Costs of solar systems remain relatively high but much depends on the size and type of system and its application. In calculating costs associated with solar, it is also important to keep in mind that fuel costs are not a factor and that operational and maintenance costs are comparatively low. The practicality of solar systems may also depend upon the alternatives. In remote locations where electrical power lines do not reach, solar systems become considerably more cost-effective. For example, according to a Manitoba publication on pasture water pumping systems, costs for solid set solar systems (stationary solar panels and batteries) are estimated to range from $2,000 to $6,000.2 However, it is primarily water quantity and pumping distance that impact the costs. For example, pumping 1,800 gallons per day for approximately 120 cow/calf pairs (from a relatively close surface water source) is estimated to cost on the low side of this scale between $2,000 and $2,500. Guides are available to assist with developing a cost estimate for solar systems including Natural Resources Canada s Buyer s Guides for photovoltaic systems 2 Manitoba Agriculture, Food & Rural Initiatives Pasture Pumping Systems: fbd01s10.html BC Agriculture & Food Climate Action Initiative www. BCAgClimateAction.ca fact sheet 7 (June 2009) 3

4 photo by Maciej Noskowski and solar water heating systems (see References & online resources section). On-grid versus off-grid If a significant enough quantity of power is generated, producers may wish to consider connecting to the grid to sell any excess electricity being produced (see the Standing Offer Program below). The process of generator interconnection can be costly and may take a number of weeks to complete. BC Hydro offers a fact sheet outlining the steps involved. As grid connection is not permitted or possible in all locations, off-grid is sometimes the only option. These systems can be stand-alone or hybrid (combining photovoltaic systems with another energy source for high energy or and year-round needs). Opportunities to consider There are a number of opportunities available that may assist with the costs of renewable energy technologies.3 3 Please note that links for opportunities identified may be found in the References & 0nline resources section. Incentives & grants There are currently limited incentives and granting opportunities associated with solar power projects. The federal program ecoenergy for Renewable Heat supports renewable thermal energy. For the industrial and commercial sectors, incentives are available for installation of active energy-efficient solar air and/or water heating systems. Qualifying applicants may receive a maximum of $80,000. Recent program adjustments allow up to a maximum of $400,000 for solar hot water projects. Periodically, the BC government offers funding for renewable energy projects through the Innovative Clean Energy Fund. In addition, the BC Ministry of Finance has expanded its PST (provincial sales tax) exemptions for energy conservation to include the purchase and lease of specific renewable energy generating equipment. This includes solar photovoltaic and solar thermal collector panels, along with any equipment sold as part of a solar system. The federal government offers two taxation measures to encourage investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Class 43.1 in Schedule II of BC Agriculture & Food Climate Action Initiative www. BCAgClimateAction.ca fact sheet 7 (June 2009) 4

5 photo by Arturbo the Income Tax Act provides taxpayers an accelerated write-off on certain equipment designed to improve energy efficiency or produce renewable energy. The Canadian Renewable & Conservation Expenses (CRCE) is a category of fully deductible expenditures associated with start-up of renewable energy and energy conservation projects. CRCE enables investors to fully write off (some) intangible costs associated with investment in renewable energy and energy conservation. Net Metering Programs The BC Hydro Net Metering Program enables customers with clean or renewable energy production facilities to receive a credit from BC Hydro when they produce more than they consume. This credit can be applied against future consumption charges. One year after net metering installation, the customer will be credited for any excess generation at a rate of 5.4 cents per kilowatt hour. There are a series of required steps to qualify for the Net Metering Program including submission of an application and an electric, single-line diagram to BC Hydro. Fortis BC has submitted a Net Metering Tariff Application to the BC Utilities Commission. The program is intended for residential and commercial customers generating clean energy to offset part or all of their electrical requirements up to 50 kw capacity. BC Hydro Standing Offer Program The Standing Offer Program encourages small and clean electricity production. Through this program, BC Hydro purchases directly from suppliers at a set price (based on a range of variables including the base price in the region of interconnection). Projects must be more than 50 kilowatts and less than 10 megawatts in size and produce clean or high efficiency electricity. In principle, those within the Fortis BC service area are eligible to participate in the Standing Offer Program. However, there are a number of Program Rules for projects requiring indirect interconnection through a third party. BC Agriculture & Food Climate Action Initiative www. BCAgClimateAction.ca fact sheet 7 (June 2009) 5

6 photo by Alex Nikada Environmental Farm Plan Program & Beneficial Management Practices For farmers who have successfully completed the Environmental Farm Plan Program, there is an option to apply for cost sharing for changes to farm practices specified within the Beneficial Management Practices Program.4 The eligible beneficial management practices (BMPs) now include some practices and technologies assocated with reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel alternatives. For specifics regarding eligible activities and cost-share ratios contact the program manager (see References & online resources section). Greenhouse gas emission offsets There are both regulated and voluntary offset opportunities for producers considering fuel switching projects. There is particularly good potential for 4 The Environmental Farm Plan Program (EFP) is a voluntary, confidential program that agricultural producers can use to identify environmental strengths and any potential risks on their farms. The objective of the program is to help agricultural operations develop and implement a practical plan that uses beneficial management practices to protect and enhance the environment. Both the EFP and BMP Programs are delivered by the BC Agricultural Research & Development Corporation. projects that involve transition from coal or fossil fuels to cleaner energy options. To date, the most promising opportunities for agriculture appear to be through the voluntary market. However, the Pacific Carbon Trust (a crown corporation purchasing offsets on behalf of the BC government) is committed to purchasing offsets generated within BC. More information on offset opportunities may also be found on the Climate Action Initiative website. References & online resources Guides & tools Natural Resources Canada Photovoltaic Systems: A Buyers Guide Systems%20-%20A%20buyers%20Guide.pdf Solar BC BC Agriculture & Food Climate Action Initiative www. BCAgClimateAction.ca fact sheet 7 (June 2009) 6

7 photo by Andreas Weber Natural Resources Canada Solar Water Heating Systems: A Buyers Guide gc.ca/fichier.php/codectec/en/isbn: / SOLAR-BuyersGuide-SolarWaterHeatingSystems_ ENG.pdf Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation About Your House: Photovoltaics photovoltaics.pdf Opportunities to explore ecoenergy for Renewable Heat heat-chauffage/index-eng.cfm ecoenergy for Renewable Power power-electricite/index-eng.cfm BC Ministry of Small Business, Technology & Economic Development Innovative Clean Energy Fund or BC Ministry of Finance Exemption for Material & Equipment Used to Conserve Energy sst_011.pdf Government of Canada Tax Incentives for Business Investments in Energy Conservation & Renewable Energy incentives.pdf BC Hydro Net Metering Program power/net_metering.html BC Hydro Standing Offer Program power/standing_offer_program.html BC Agriculture & Food Climate Action Initiative www. BCAgClimateAction.ca fact sheet 7 (June 2009) 7

8 BC Hydro Generator Interconnections (see Interconnection Guidelines for 35 kv & below and Costs & Timelines under Useful documents) acquiring_power/generator_interconnections.html Fortis BC Independent Power Producers power_producer.html BC Agricultural Research & Development Corporation Environmental Farm Plan Program & Beneficial Management Practices Program Pacific Carbon Trust climate action resources for the agricultural & food sector in British Columbia w w w.bcag ClimateAction.ca funding provided by The Climate Action Initiative is facilitating a proactive approach to climate change issues within the BC agriculture and food sector. By developing climate action resources, the Initiative raises awareness and assists the industry in meeting the challenges, and acting upon the opportunities, presented by climate change. The Initiative is led by an advisory committee made up of BC agriculture producers and food processors. The Climate Action Initiative is a joint undertaking of BC Agriculture Council and the Investment Agriculture Foundation, with funding provided by Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada and the BC Ministry of Agriculture & Lands. For more information about the Climate Action Initiative, please contact Initiative Coordinator, Emily MacNair at or BC Agriculture & Food Climate Action Initiative www. BCAgClimateAction.ca fact sheet 7 (June 2009) 8

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