Frequently Asked Questions
Mounting a solar system on a roof presents challenges which can be unique to each building. It also represents a significant investment which must be configured to ensure acceptable performance and return on investment. This means designing the system to minimize losses from shading, to reduce the wind and snow load on the structure and to choosing components which will ensure a long term reliable and safe operation. Our experts understand these issues and make the appropriate decisions.
1 – Why deploy on buildings?
Up to now, most of the solar systems have been installed in fields outside urban areas, often on agricultural land or fields where forests could grow. This is attracting increasing criticism from environmental groups. Yet roof tops and parking lots, which rarely bring revenue and instead compound the problem of urban warming due to their heat absorption, can instead provide excellent opportunities for the production of solar electricity and revenue generation.
Solar power is also ideally suited for urban and industrial environments for several reasons. It can be deployed with minimum or no visual impact, it has no moving parts to make noise or cause safety issues, and it offers reliable production well beyond its warranty period of 25 years. Also, because solar panels are designed to absorb the sun rays, they do not produce the invasive reflections of windows and shiny materials and often extend the life of rooftops by significantly reducing the direct exposure from sun rays. Clearly, solar power is the ideal non-intrusive and long lasting solution for roof top deployment.
2 – Should I buy my system or rent my roof?
A solar PV system is a major investment, which will have payback typically within 8-10 years under the Ontario FIT program. Factoring normal risks associated with the uncertainty of the revenues and with other factors which can affect the performance over a 20+ year life expectancy, this represents a financial decision to make with caution.
This is why SolPowered believes such investments may be better suited for professional companies who are dedicated to this field. To this end, SolPowered offers to finance this investment allowing building owners to obtain a risk-free lease revenue and play their part in our collective environmental responsibility towards the planet.
3 – Does solar really work in the north?
Many people associate solar energy with the south. Many northern regions offer excellent solar production potential because of their longer summer days and clear spring and fall days. Also, because of the colder climate and cleaner environment, solar panels will operate at a higher efficiency level than most hot and dusty southern locations.
4 – Which solar technologies are covered under the OPA FIT program?
All photovoltaic technologies can qualify provided that the local content requirements of the Green Energy Act of Ontario are met. Crystalline panels have been deployed for decades and deliver higher efficiency. This means that they produce more electricity for the same panel area. Alternatively, various thin film technologies have emerged in recent years offering lower cost per watt. Since they have different attributes and manufacturing techniques, these technologies can be offered in a higher variability of sizes and shapes, but can require as much as twice the area of crystalline panels to produce the same amount of electricity.
5 – How long will the process take?
In general, it will take approximately one year from the initial sign off of the lease agreement to the final project completion. This is because several contractual and legal steps must be undertaken, including the application for a FIT contract, a connection agreement and a renewable energy authorization. In addition, financing must be completed and properly attached to the project before procurement of the components can proceed and installation scheduled.
6 – Does the Solar PV system help me qualify for LEED certification?
Absolutely! A solar PV system provides energy and technology/innovation points under the LEED certification program.
7 – Can I claim Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) for the green aspect of the project?
Not under the Ontario FIT program as the tariff supplied for the electricity sold by the generator considers the purchase of any environmental benefits such as carbon credits.
8 – What happens with my roof warranty?
Where possible, SolPowered prefers to work with the original roof manufacturer in order to maintain the original roof warranty. When this is not possible or desired, SolPowered will subcontract the work to one of its partner roofing and waterproofing companies and provide a standard leak-free warranty. In addition, SolPowered insures every project against potential damages which could originate from its installation. Notwithstanding the above, the objective of every project remains to avoid or reduce penetrations to an absolute minimum.
9 – Can my roof support the weight of the panels and racking and how will it impact snow loading?
Panels weigh, on average, 2.3 lbs/ft2 (11.5 kg/m2) and the racking is made of lightweight aluminum. Depending on the tilt used and space left in between rows, the equipment weight load will slightly vary. Typically, since the tilt of the panels is kept low, the downward forces will be kept at a fraction of the snow load of 50 lbs/ft2 which roofs in the northern cities like Ottawa must comply with. In addition, upward forces can be eliminated or drastically reduced with the addition of back panels as needed.
Nevertheless, wind loads and snow loads are key design criteria of every system and are handled case by case by our qualified structural design engineers to ensure that the installation complies with the local building design code.
10 – Where are the panels produced?
The panels will usually be produced in Ontario, just like the inverters, racking and all other materials and labor. Only the base material (solar cells inside the panels) will be produced outside of the province; typically in Germany, USA, China or Japan.
11 – Is SolPowered concerned with engineering specifications for roof loads?
Absolutely; The OPA requires a stamped structural engineering report to be submitted alongside the application. Additionally, SolPowered recommends that a roof assessment be performed by a roofing expert in order to identify when the roof will need to be replaced.
12 – Can the warranty terms be extended?
Yes, although we do already provide a 25-year warranty on the panels, a 10-year warranty on the inverters and a 1-year warranty on the overall system.
13 – Does SolPowered have hard data on the lifespan and degradation rates for the equipment involved?
Yes, there is plenty of evidence of long-term durability. Because of that, all serious panel suppliers that we deal with not only offer a 25-year warranty, but also guarantee that the panels will produce at least 80% of what they produced when they were new at the end of the 25-year period.
14 – How hard is it to remove and re-install the system for roof repairs?
Solar systems almost always outlast roofing systems, even on a new roof. For this reason, they are designed in a modular way in order to minimize removal and re-assembly costs. Nonetheless, we normally recommend NOT installing a solar system if the existing roof does not have at least 6-8 years remaining on it so that the owner has fully recovered his or her investment.
15 – Can SolPowered provide references and actual data from sites that have been operational for over 1 year?
Yes, we would be happy to provide such information upon request. The data we have collected shows that installed systems have been producing as much as 10% more than predicted. This indicates that SolPowered’s careful approach to production and revenue calculation is consistently accurate and avoids overly optimistic results.
16 – I need a full explanation for Option 3. Does it include all connection fees and permits?
Yes, the cost mentioned includes everything. We provide a turnkey service.
17 – How does SolPowered arrive at the cash flow numbers?
We have a detailed 30-year financial projections spreadsheet which we would be happy to share with you.
18 – What about snow and ice removal?
The panels are installed so that they seldom require maintenance for snow or ice removal.
19 – What are the annual operating costs for maintenance etc.?
Those are included in the Cash Flow analysis.
20 – Do the stated costs include HST?
No, they do not since these are reimbursable.
21 – How long can solar panels last?
Solar electric panels can produce energy for 30 years or more, and most of them come with 25-year warranties.
22 – How long before the inverter needs to be replaced?
A good quality inverter should last between 15 and 20 years. To be conservative, we budget a replacement in year 15 of the cash flow analysis.