Opinion

Parksville rooftop is ready for the sun

Parksville
Parksville's Brian Glennie, right, and installer Mike Mearns of Hakai Energy Solutions stand below part of the 20-panel solar array installed on Glennie's roof this week.
— image credit: J.R. Rardon photo

Brian Glennie has grown tired of being victimized every April Fool’s Day. This year, he’s going to be the one pulling the prank.

Glennie, a 67-year-old Parksville man, had a 20-panel, 5.1-kilowatt solar array installed this week on the roof of the ranch house he shares with his wife, Clair Schuman. Instead of paying BC Hydro for all of their electricity, they will be feeding power back into the grid and getting paid back for turning their Aberdeen Drive home into a mini power plant.

“Hydro rates are going up on April Fools Day,” said Glennie. “Well, this is my April Fool’s joke on BC Hydro.”

Installation of the photovoltaic system was completed Tuesday by Cumberland-based Hakai Energy Solutions. The company last year installed the array on Lasqueti Island that powers False Bay Elementary school, and put in a 79kw system on five municipal buildings in the Village of Alert Bay, on Cormorant Island, that Hakai owner Jason Jackson said will largely eliminate the village’s electrical bills for the year.

“We’re better know for our commercial installations,” said Jackson, “but (residential installation) has been going through the roof the last couple of years.”

The Parksville home of Brian Glennie and Clair Schuman sports a 20-panel, 5.1-kw photovoltaic solar array, installed this week by Cumberland's Hakai Energy Solutions. — Image credit: J.R. Rardon/PQB NEWS

Glennie purchased his Parksville home seven years ago after moving from Kimberley, which has B.C.’s largest solar array on the leased site of a closed mine. He said he has had an eye on a residential solar system for years. When he recently “came into some money” through an inheritance, he began researching installers and found Hakai had done work in the area.

“Hydro rates go up every year,” he said. “For once, I can get even with them.”

Glennie said his home is entirely electric, with winter heating and summer cooling provided by a heat pump. During peak-use periods, such as heating in a winter like the one just past or cooling in mid-summer, he can eliminate the tier 2 step rate from his BC Hydro bills.

“And in the fall and spring, I should be putting energy into the system,” he said.

Jackson said the average cost range for a residential array ranges from $15,000 to $20,000, though a smaller, two- to three-kw system could be installed for between $8-12,000.

“We expect these systems to pay for themselves in an average of 15-18 years,” he said. “These solar panels are guaranteed for 25 years, so if you pay it off in 17 years, that’s essentially eight years of free energy.”

Glennie’s system does not store energy in batteries located on-site. Instead, if feeds power through an inverter installed on the home which is connected to the BC Hydro smart metre. When more energy is being supplied by the panels than is needed by the home’s electricity demands, the excess energy is routed back into the hydro grid and Glennie is paid back for the supply.

“BC Hydro got a lot of grief for the SmartMetre when they brought them in,” said Jackson. “But these digital metres have two-way tracking that show you exactly what you’re drawing from the system and what you’re putting in. Before, with the old metre, you just saw the net result.”

Glennie is looking forward to a net result of lower energy bills, even as he anticipates continued rate increases coming from BC Hydro.

“I’ve got a 30-year warranty on these panels and a 30-year warranty on my roof, so I figure I gotta stick around another 30 years to enjoy the payback” Glennie said with a laugh. “I know it’s gonna be paid for before I’m gone.”

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