Man turns to solar to hollow out hydro bill

Man turns to solar to hollow out hydro bill

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he Maurice Nunas household in Oliver has undergone a significant transformation with the use of solar power in the form of panels on the roof. The Nunas electric bill would have cost $306 over two months in the summertime, but thanks to his solar panels – even with many days hindered by smoky skies, the bill ended up costing just $1.92. (Photo by Dan Walton)

By Dan Walton

Investing in rooftop solar panels was a no-brainer for Oliver resident Maurice Nunas.

“Basically the money I had sitting in the bank was earning less than a per cent annually,” he said. “The minute I put it on the roof and the panels starting working, it’s returning five per cent.”

The Nunas home began harnessing renewable energy in April, and when they produce more than they use, it’s sold to FortisBC.

“No annual fees or later costs. It’s just going to keep returning, guaranteed for 25 years.”

Nunas is often asked how long it will take for him to recoup the costs, but there are too many variables to make an accurate guess.

According to BCHydro.com, an investment in residential solar panel takes at least 20 years to recoup. Not according to Nunas’s math though.

“It’s going to be way faster than that. This whole system – an over 7,000-watt system with 26 panels – costs less than $18,000,” he said.

When solar panels produce more energy than a home consumes, the energy is fed back to the utility company.

“I get credit for that power that goes into the grid from Fortis, so in essence you can think of it as turning the metre backwards.”

The Nunas electric bill would have cost $306 over two months in the summertime, but thanks to his solar panels – even with many days hindered by smoky skies, the bill ended up costing just $1.92.

On another bill, the Nunas produced so much more energy than they consumed that Fortis gave them a $21 credit towards the next charge.

“So far it’s performing beyond our expectations. When you look at that and do the math, the return on investment is there.”

However, as the earth tilts, the savings aren’t steady throughout the year.

“In the winter we’ll produce a little less than half what we get during the peak of the summer.”

Even during the darker months, Nunas expects the assistance of his solar panels to prevent his consumption costs from crossing the threshold into tier-two pricing.

Inside the home, electricity can be used exactly the same – the installation of solar panels doesn’t require any concessions to be made.

“You’d have no clue it’s a solar house,” Nunas said. “Everything works the same as it did. We don’t even think of where it comes from.”

Beyond the financial value he sees in solar investment, Nunas said it’s the right thing to do to address the future of energy consumption.

“There was a lot of talk going on with the Site C dam and how much electricity we’re going to need – so I thought, if everybody that had a suitable south-facing roof put solar panels up there maybe we wouldn’t even need Site C.”

Nunas said the equipment was all installed in three days.

The panels sit six inches above his roof and don’t require any cleaning or snow removal.

“The panels can tolerate a little dust and snow – not that Oliver gets a lot of snow. Even in a bad winter.”

Nunas didn’t have any criticism towards solar panels, but he’s disappointed the provincial government doesn’t offer any incentives or tax credits, unlike many other provinces.

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