TechnologySolar panels: are they worth the investment in Canada?

Mary ChapmanDecember 5, 20198 min

Depending upon where in Canada you live, electricity can cost you big bucks each year. But the high initial cost of solar panel installation makes many Canadians wonder if it is worth the investment.

In this article, we look at each province and territory to examine if solar panels make sense in your area.

Cost for panels

Contact any solar panel company and they will tell you the cost per watt. The average price of solar power in Canada is $3.07/Watt. But that’s not the whole cost. You also have to consider the amount of sunlight your area gets, whether or not your province offers solar incentives, and the size of the equipment you would need.

How much energy you use vs how much solar energy you can harness

Start by calculating how much energy you use over one year in units of kWh. All you do is look at your hydro bills for the past year (you can usually access these online), and add up your monthly kWh usage for 12 consecutive months. Your number will likely fall somewhere between 7,500 and 15,000kWh. Next, you will need to figure out how much energy solar panels can produce in your area. Energy output is totally dependent on how many hours of full sunlight your province gets.

Here is the annual average of full sunlight hours per province:

  • Alberta —1,276 hours
  • British Columbia — 1,004 hours
  • Manitoba — 1,272 hours
  • New Brunswick— 1,142 hours
  • Newfoundland and Labrador— 949 hours
  • Northwest Territories— 1,064 hours
  • Nova Scotia —1,090 hours
  • Nunavut —1,092 hours
  • Ontario —1,166 hours
  • Prince Edward Island —1,104 hours
  • Quebec —1,183 hours
  • Saskatchewan— 1,330 hours
  • Yukon —965 hours

Once you know how much energy you can reasonably expect to harness over a year, you can calculate the size of solar panel equipment you would need. To do this, simply divide your yearly energy use (in kWh) by your annual average of full sunlight hours (in hours). Let’s say that your home uses 15,000 kWh over a year and that you live in Quebec where you get 1,183 hours of sunlight a year. The calculation would be 15,000/ 1183 = 12.67KW.

You can then multiply this number by the cost per watt quoted by solar companies to get your final price. Let’s assume that a solar system will cost $2.28 per Watt. $2.28/Watt* 12670 Watts = $28,887. It would cost you just under $29,000 to install solar panels on your home (not including any incentives your province might offer).

Are solar panels worth it?

In order to assess whether installing solar panels is worth the upfront cost of installation, you need to look at how long it will take to pay off the system.

If you can pay off the system with your energy savings in around ten years, then it’s worth getting on board. Remember, solar panels last about 30 years and have almost no maintenance except for clearing off the snow. If your panels are angled at 35 degrees, they will clear themselves of snow without you having to do anything. If you do need to clear snow, attach a squeegee to a mop pole and carefully wipe the snow away.

The National Energy Board recently completed a study on the financial viability of typical solar power projects in over 20, 000 Canadian communities across every province and territory. The study estimated the amount and cost of electricity produced by solar panels and I compared the costs to local electricity prices.

Findings show that installing solar panels only makes financial sense in areas where electricity rates are high. This means, that the break-even prices for solar panels are less than electricity prices in Saskatchewan (where electricity costs are among the highest in Canada), Prince Edward Island and most places in Ontario.

In these areas, most homeowners would save money by installing solar. Rebates in Nova Scotia bring down the installation cost of solar panels, making it a smart move in that province. In Alberta, people with solar panels could save money if they used smart meters and took advantage of rebates.

Have you already made the switch to solar? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Drop us a line below.

Mary Chapman profile picture

Mary Chapman

Graduated from the University of Toronto with an Honors BA English Specialization and has completed several publishing courses at Ryerson University. She is a proofreader, editor, and content writer based in London, Ontario.

3 comments

  • Mike

    December 10, 2019 at 3:01 pm

    I think the advantage of installing solar can’t be accurately reported on due to constantly changing local variables. Take Edmonton for example. Last year, combined provincial and city rebates for solar installation were a full 40% ! The solar market went nuts. In addition, a major energy retailer began to purchase solar power exports at ~4X the average kWh rate. The incentives were incredible. Fast forward to today: the new conservative government killed all solar rebates, although the high purchase rates still exist. Very different today, but great if you got solar installed lat year.

    Reply

    • FCT

      December 10, 2019 at 3:24 pm

      Hi Mike,
      Thanks for the feedback. I guess timing is everything!

      Reply

  • Bob Dhaliwal

    October 9, 2020 at 12:00 am

    I just installed my system this year in Vancouver. It will take a few years before i know if I’m saving any money. They do add to the curb appeal of the house. Not too many people have them.

    Reply

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