The Advantages of Becoming An Energy Prosumer
Last Updated on January 29, 2021
How Will It Impact Your Future
What goes through your mind when you walk into a room and switch on the light? Ever wonder about where that power came from? What its source is? Did it travel through the electrical grid from the power plant down the road? Perhaps it travelled along power lines from a nearby river churning its way through turbines in a hydroelectric dam.
If you’re like most people you probably switched the light on without giving it a second thought. And why should you? You pay your energy bills on time and therefore, ‘let there be light’! As long as the light bulb flicks on when you hit the switch it doesn’t matter where that energy comes from.
Or does it…
What’s the deal with having solar panels on your roof?
Renewables and alternative energy options have gained considerable popularity in recent years. For countries around the world it has become a way to diversify their energy industries and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.
One area in particular that’s seen exponential growth in recent years is the production of solar photovoltaic (PV) panel systems. Indeed, incorporating residential solar systems into electrical grids has been trending recently among home and business owners.
The Neighbor Effect
Maybe you’ve noticed some of your neighbors installing solar panel systems on their houses and you’re wondering what the big deal is. Perhaps you’ve looked into doing so yourself. If so, you may have noticed that it can be pretty expensive to install a solar panel system onto your home.
According to Energyhub, the average cost to install residential solar panels is $3.01/watt. For a large 7.5kW PV system it can cost up to $22,000! Clearly no small investment. Despite the cost, there are plenty of people out there willing to fork it over. Here’s the scoop on why they may have decided to invest in such a costly endeavor.
What is a Prosumer?
There’s actually name for those who are producing energy from their own private homes or businesses. They’re called, “Prosumers.”
Consider him/her the woke person on the block when it comes to their energy usage. Prosumers are a rising demographic that have decided enough is enough. They aren’t going to pay that major utility company another dime of their hard-earned money.
Some people want lower energy bills. Others refuse to support energy sourced by fossil fuels. While some just want to have a bit more control over their relationship with the electrical grid.
You Have The Power
A prosumer is someone that both consumes and generates energy from a renewable source. The ability to do this is in large part due to huge improvements in alternative and renewable energy technologies. Such a choice is further encouraged by policies and incentives that support the clean energy transition.
This isn’t the same situation as your distant cousin that decided he wanted to “go off grid” and build a solar farm next to his outhouse in the woods.
Prosumers are regular urban or semi-urban citizens that purchase or finance solar panels. These panels are then installed directly onto their rooftops or in their backyards. This system is then connected to the electrical grid to allow for a two-way energy transfer.
Why Become a Prosumer?
I get it. I dropped that $22,000 price tag and it immediately became the elephant in the room. Luckily, there are a number of government policies and incentives in Canada that encourage people to adopt residential solar. Most provinces will even offer financing options that allow you to pay for your PV system through your property tax.
In this post, I’ll outline 6 advantages to consider when deciding whether to choose solar. Every province is different however, so you may need to examine policies that pertain to your particular area. That said, let’s explore the benefits of becoming a Prosumer.
1. Provincial Rebates
Some provinces including Nova Scotia or New Brunswick will offer a simple dollar rebate of $x/kW installed solar which can significantly offset the initial input cost of the installation. If your planning to install a 5kW system at $3/watt, it will cost you a total of roughly $15,000.
The province of Nova Scotia for example, will offer a $0.60/watt rebate. You’re actually going to be paying $2.40/watt for the system. The total installation cost will end up around $12,000 with a total savings of $3,000. This can be a very important factor in your decision to implement a solar PV system.
2. Feed-In Tariffs
If you live in the province of Ontario where the solar market is the highest in Canada, you might be in luck. The Ontario government has implemented a policy called feed-in tariffs (FIT). They’re represent a nice incentive for residential solar installations. They’ve already allowed many urbanites to leverage their solar panels for personal benefit and even a profit!
Here’s how it works. If the sun is shining and your solar panels are operating at their peak performance, you will likely use less energy than your solar system is capable of producing. What happens to that extra energy?
With feed-in tariffs, the Ontario government agrees to purchase that excess energy for a flat contracted rate of $X /watt. This energy is then routed back to the municipal or provincial electrical grid and supplied to other houses. That’s right, not only are your panels capable of providing you clean energy, but they can also become a source of passive income.
3. Long Term Investment
While public policies can make a huge difference in their affordability, solar PV systems have one major WIN over conventionally consumed power. They are sustainable. A solar panel will last between 25-30 years before its efficiency drops.
Additionally, most companies will include a warranty sticker onto their product for at least that length of time. First tally up your monthly energy bill and look at what you pay in a year. Now multiply it by 25 years and you will be left with a pretty intimidating number.
The average residential solar system in Canada ends up paying for itself in about 8-16 years according to Kuby Energy. After that, your energy bill will be virtually nonexistent. Perhaps, given the right policies in your area, you will even end up making a profit with your solar PV system.
4. Increased Home Value
One more thing to consider in your long-term financial plan, is how solar panels will affect your home value. It wouldn’t be fair if you spent a decade paying off your new solar installation and then move out, only to have the new neighbors move in with no energy bills.
Lucky for you Mr/Ms Prosumer, a Canadian solar company by the name of Bluewater Energy found that installing solar panels on your home can immediately increase its value up to 3-4%.
5. More Tech = More Options
The solar industry in Canada has been growing at an accelerating rate! Along with it, market technology has also evolved. If it’s the aesthetic appearance of your neighbor’s solar system that bothers you, don’t let it. There are tons of unique options for a prosumer to consider.
Take Solarwindow for instance, a lightweight liquid coating that can turn your windows into latent energy generators. Or the Tesla’s solar roof, another example of a hidden technology. They contribute energy to the grid with their solar PV roof shingles while looking sleek and refined.
6. Saving the Planet
Last, but certainly not least! Solar energy adoption can reduce the environmental impact of GHG emissions immensely! Although solar panels also have an environmental footprint, it’s substantially smaller than anything fossil fuel-based.
Indeed, it’s worth noting that solar panels are currently manufactured using various precious metals. These metals need to be mined. So while carbon emissions are slim, there is still an environmental cost.
Once they’re built and installed however, they last for a very long time and with zero operational emissions. This makes them one of the most environmentally-friendly energy options available right now.
Become a Prosumer & Get Connected!
These are certainly not the only items to consider when weighing your energy options. Needless to say, the Canadian government is encouraging residential solar in many areas of the country.
In fact, the benefits are not limited to the prosumer. Every solar panel that gets connected to the energy grid can minimize blackouts and lower energy costs. So take a look at your local rebates and policy support. Maybe you’ll be the next prosumer in your energy grid.
Editing by Marc-Antoni Tarondo.