Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Unfortunately, the business, has really impacted the maternity benefit process. When we had our first child, and had no solar business, the EI cheques just came in the bank every couple weeks. When we had our second child in October, the cheques were coming in regularly and then we told the Government that my wife now has another income stream, the solar panels.
Boy, trying to explain this to Service Canada has been quite the experience and involved a LOT of phone calls and one trip down to the local Service Canada office. The unfortunate thing, is that just about every person I talk to, tells us something differently.
After we told them about the solar business, they told us to report the income weekly. We told them that this was not possible as the payments come bi-monthly. This was something else that was extremely hard to comprehend. Basically the end result of that was that we were to report the income for the week it was earned when we knew.
Well, a couple days after that, we recieved a letter in the mail saying that if the income was less than 850$, we could CHOOSE to voluntarily report it by week or as a lump payment. This has different implications that I will get into another day.
This was contradictory to what we were told on the phone so we called again to make sure that what came in the male was correct. We were told, no, that we still MUST report the income for each week that it was due. During this process, we had nothing to report and without telling us, they cancelled my wife's EI claim because she had not claimed any income.
So, fast forward a couple weeks and we got a payment so we finally had income to report. I broke it down by week and subtracted the expenses. (Side note, capital cost depreciation is not counted when calculating expenses) My wife called today, to claim the income per week and to re-activate the claim. She went into the details, again, for the nth time about what she was doing and that she had income to claim by week and the person said she didn't want it broken down, she just wanted a total and that next time we can just claim the total for the week the payment was received. Completely opposite of what the last person told us!!!! Anyhow, I like this answer and we are going to go this way from now on. She also told us we need to start filing her papers weekly stating income as 0$ until a payment is recieved and then claim that full amount as income for the week it was received.
The long and short of it, is that no one who works in the EI office goes by the same rules so I guess it just depends who you talk to!!!!
Thursday, March 17, 2011
The payment included HST which I am collecting and remitting to the government. It also included a one time 10$ account setup fee from KW Hydro and another 10.50$ in administration fees.
The $10.50 in administration fees will be every period. The payments are bi-monthly so that means that it is approximately $5.25 per month for administration. Not exactly ideal, but reasonable given the fact that I have heard that Toronto and Cambridge are both around $10/month. So, hopefully KW Hydro keeps the rates as is!
Three or four days this month have reached over 30kWh which is approximately 24$/day. The average per day is over 15kWh/day so far and that is ABOVE my target/plan so that makes me very happy.
I have noticed that it is not uncommon to average over 4.3kWh between 11AM and 2PM. I have also seen a max of 5.1kWh for a couple brief seconds. I am not exactly sure how this is possible as the inverter is only rated for 5kW, but whos complaining?
Clearly as these numbers come in I get more and more comfortable with the 'investment' because I am actually seeing the results!
I can only imagine as the days in June/July get longer and longer that I might be able to reach 40+ kWh/day.
I can't wait!
Thursday, February 10, 2011
I am not sure exactly they today was 1kWh better as both days seemed similar. Temperature's were similar, and cloud cover seemed equivalent.
I mention temperature being the same because my understanding is that the colder the temperature, the less resistance, and therefore the more efficient the PV System works.
I paid pretty close attention to the panel output and it was a very steady bell curve that produced over 3.5kWh for quite a while with a quick peak reached at 1:20pm. This doesn't really make sense as you would think the peak would have been around noon. The peak itself was just over 4kWh!
I can't wait till the summer!
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
The other thing about the panels is that they are attached to your house and in the event that they happen to start a fire, you would want your house insurance to cover the costs of rebuilding your house to ensure you were not stuck with the bill. The likelyhood of this is very very small, but to me, it is worth going into detail to ensure no possible problems could arrise.
My suggestion to you is to investigate your insurance with your insurance company BEFORE you sign a contract with an installer or pay for anything as it should be taken care of first. Back in the summer, I called my insurance company, TD Meloche Monex, and told them what I was doing. I told them that the cost of the panels would depreciate and I asked them straight up, 'if the panels would cause a fire, would they cover the damage?' This question went to the under-writers and I was told, yes. As long as they were approved for use in Ontario and that they had the proper ESA certifications, this would be fine.
The quote they gave me was about 5$/month, which I thought was pretty reasonable, so I went along and got my system installed.
After the connection to the LDC, I called back my insurance company to put the additional insurance on and the guy said, yup no problem and then he said, everything is fine with one condition on the agreement. 'If you use the panels for commerical purposes, any damage caused by the panels would NOT be covered'.
Of course I raised the red flag and was thinking, why was this not told to me back in the summer. I explained exactly what I was doing, selling the power back to the LDC and they said it was fine. Fortunately, I got one of the very good sales agents and I told him that it was unacceptable and that I would be switching insurance companies and he told me he would talk to the underwriters to see if this could be removed.
He called me back a couple hours later and told me the first level of underwriter's could not remove the line but a higher level underwriter could so he contacted them and wouldn't you know it, he was able to get it removed! I was thrilled, so for an extra 5$/month, my panels are covered.
I was also told that I could call in every year and tell them the 'new/depriciated' value of the panels and it would lower the insurance premiums.
I have asked another person and they were paying almost 40$/month for the insurance with the panels....
What insurnace company do you have and how much is your monthly premium?
Saturday, February 5, 2011
However, I noticed back in January that there was one day where there was some 'bursts' of sun that brought the panels up to near max efficiency, approximately 4.3 kWh AC. On February 3rd, I assumed that with an amazingly clear day, with only sun in the sky, I would reach the same 4.3 kWh, but I didn't. The day still turned out to be the best day yet, 18.95kWh.
So I thought about it and can't explain while the max didn't get reached, I could explain how the total energy produced would increase even if the max output at any one point wouldn't be increased. And that is simply that on shorter days, the max output is a very sharp peak where as longer days will have a flat top and a much longer curve to the graph, with no distinct peak. Here is a simple chart that shows this and it is only a difference of 5 or 6 days!
The values you see there are averaged over 5 minutes so you can't actually see the 4.3kWh but you can see that the curve is flattening out at the top with the blue line (Feb 3rd).
It is 8:45AM today and the panels have already reached 1kW/h production which was not reached until 9:45 on February 3rd so if the weather stays the same, you can bet that the 20kWh for the day is attainable today!
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
The final output was 183.3 kWh. The projection from the analysis was 240kWh. That means I hit about 75% of target, which was pretty decent because it seemed like we had a lot of snow and lots of cloudy days this month!
I think the important thing to see is that there was about 6 days that were for the most part nothing days and that the overall trend is increasing. The average yield per day is approximately 6kWh/day and if you took the first half of the month and the second half of the month as a unit, you would see the second half was significantly better.
Why is this? Well there is a couple reason.
- Days are getting longer! The system turns on earlier in the morning and stays on later in the afternoon.
- I am more aware of what needs to be removed and what doesn't in terms of snow.
- As the days get longer, the sun gets higher, and with a low slope (15 degrees), my panels should be getting more efficient.
My highlight for the month is reaching 4.3kWh for a couple seconds. This is AC which is pretty close to 100% effiiency for my system, after you derate the DC to AC conversion of a 5.3kW system!
Here is hoping to February being a strong month with a similar trend!
Monday, January 24, 2011
I had approximately 1 inch of snow on my panels, and this was very light fluffy snow. The day was completely sunny with NO Clouds at all, the PERFECT day for solar panels.
At 9:45AM, the output on the panels, with snow, was 156W. I went and cleared them off. This took approximately 15 minutes. When I checked the output right after I was done clearing them, and the panels were producing 1150W, or approximatly 10 times more with no snow. This is extremely significant and will definitly encourage me to clean them off when possible.
It should be noted that my roof is only 15 degrees or so and I am very careful when I go up on the roof in the winter as it can be very dangerous. I do not recommend doing this for anyone who is not extremely careful AND capeable. I use a nylon broom to clean the panels and the snow comes off very easily assuming it is just snow. If you have ice in there, good luck. My suggestion is to wait it out until it melts it self.
I have no doubt that on a day like yesterday when the sun is shinning all day with NO clouds at all that an inch of snow would have been melted off by 1:00pm but there would have been some missed output until they were cleared that I wanted to capture!
The bottom line is that snow, even only one inch, has a significant impact on the panel performance and so any way possible to clean them will make a big difference during the winter. I would suggest cleaning them with a roof rake of some kind with a very soft attachment to make sure you don't scratch the panels, but I have not tried this yet.
What techniques do you use to clean them, or do you just let the sun take care of it?
Saturday, January 22, 2011
At the moment, I can only give a perspective of the winter. I would say that in January, on a sunny day, I could get around 15kWh. From what I have found, is that if you only add clouds (Where most of the day is grey out but the sun peaks through here and there), it cuts the efficiency in half, to somewhere around maybe 8kWh/day.
From what I can see, if you add clouds and snow into the equation, the output is cut by half again, and giving you maybe 3kWh.
So you can quickly see that for strong performance, the sun needs to be out and anything that gets in the way of the sun rays will have a pretty significant impact.
I should also quickly mention that snow on the panels has an enormous impact on the system and that just because it is cold out, does NOT mean that the panels produce less, in fact, panels produce energy more efficiently if they are cooler!
I plan on posting many more posts on performance, whether, snow, and clouds in the future!
Friday, January 21, 2011
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
My connection date to the grid was December 3rd so Any power generated since then will be eligible for payment.
I accepted the offer which requried information on the Ontario content rules. I only needed 40% content rule because my conditional contract was from 2010. New content rules for 2011 I believe are 60% Ontario content. I will elaborate more on this in the future!
It took about 7 weeks (plus the Christmas break) to get my local distribution company (LDC) and a couple emails to LDC to get them to send the OPA my connection information and then another week for OPA to finalize the contract and offer it to me.
So, I guess that means that I just have to wait because the cheque should be in the mail soon!
Monday, January 17, 2011
When I was doing my research, before I purchased, I was trying to find the 'sweet spot'. I was trying to take advantage of economies of scale while still purchasing something that would NOT destroy my life if things didn't turn out, like the sun stopped shinning! I suppose if the sun stopped shinning we would all have much bigger problems than wasting money on solar panels!
So, how much does the standard setup cost? And what is the standard setup?
To me, the standard setup would be panel installation on the roof with no tracking (follow the sun throughout the day) capabilities.
From my research, I found a very good breakdown that helped me find the 'sweet spot.'
1 to 2 kW --> 10$/W = 10,000$ to 20,000$
3 kW --> 9.25$/W = 27,750$
4 kW --> 8.50$/W = 34,000$
So the next question is naturally, how much did you end up spending on the system? And to that I tell people the same thing. It was around 32,000$ for a 5.28kW system. My panels are Schuco and my inverter is a SMA Sunny Boy. Of course, my price above is plush HST which is a significant amount of money but in Ontario, the HST can be recovered via the HST rules IF you charge HST and remit it to the government. I will eloborate more on this in a future post.
Next post, I will get into the details of my system.
If you have purchased a system, how much did it cost?
Saturday, January 15, 2011
My answer is always the same, "I don't use any of it, I sell it all". This usually catches people off guard because they assume that the intent is to be 'off the grid' so to speak. This while has benefits such as self sufficiency, and the ability to have power if there were ever another black out, but is really not very advantages because of the government of Ontario's MicroFIT program.
This program essentially makes it foolish to use any of the power because the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) is willing to pay 80.2 cents/kWh and KW Hydro only charges 6.5 cents/KWh at the moment. The other benefit is that I don't need to store any energy via batteries so the cost is lower to get going. So, the long and short of it is that all power generated is sent directly to the power grid!
In the future, I will be talking much more about this contract that I have with the OPA and the benefits and drawbacks that are sure to encounter along my journey.