Details of a microFIT Solar On Site Assessment

The prior article in this series on our experiences with Ontario’s microFIT initiative, we wrote about our experience with one installation vendor’s on site solar assessment visit to our home.

The purpose of this on site solar assessment was to provide us with the following data to help us determine if from a financial perspective investing in a roof top solar panel installation on our south facing roof would be economically / financially viable:

  • what size of solar roof top installation would be appropriate for our south facing roof,
  • the amount of kilowatts it would be expected to generate annually, and
  • what it would cost.

In about a week or so we received the four page quote from the installation vendor.

What follows are some of its details which I thought you might find useful and informative.

First, the quote did not identify the roof slope. It did not indicate whether the south facing roof was directly due south or was some specific amount off of due south. Both of these were on the other hand provided by OurPower, which you can access here to compare, in the online solar site assessment we received them. Both the roof slope and the direction the roof is compared to due south do impact the amount of the average annual production to be expected from solar panels placed on the roof.

The 4 page report (more in a letter format) indicated that our south facing roof proposed a 4.480 Kilowatt solar grid-tie system which would operate under the microFIT (Feed In Tariff) program.

The 4.480 kilowatt roof top mounted solar array would consist of:

  • twenty 224 watt Sharp Solar Modules
  • flat roof mount framing system
  • a 5,000 watt grid-tie solar inverter (to convert the electricity generated by the solar panels into the type of electricity which could be received into my local electric utility’s electric grid
  • 30 meters of #10 gauge cable
  • solar/inverter disconnect switch
  • a utility disconnect switch
  • a grounding kit
  • meter base for the FIT program
  • various other hardware components

Other than the solar panels / modules, it did not state the manufacturer for any of the other hardware components.

The site assessment report indicated that they used a 4 hour average of ‘bright sunlight’ per day in their calculations for the expected average annual kilowatts per hour to be generated by this proposed 4.480 kilowatt solar system.

Based on this the following production and revenue numbers were provided:

  • 17.92 kilowatt hours (kwh) per day
  • 6,540.8 kwh per year (19.92 X 365 days)
  • $5,245.05 approximate annual revenue from an Ontario microFIT contract (6,540.5 kwh X $0.802)
  • 6.29 years for financial payback (how long it would take before the revenue received under an Ontario microFIT contract would equal the cost of the solar roof top system
  • 15.89% ROI (return on investment)

Now, the above numbers does not take into account:

  • any financing costs I may incur if I use a bank loan, line of credit, etc. to pay for the investment
  • any annual insurance costs
  • the cost of my local utility’s meter, which for me is $550 + HST

Remember that the microFIT contract is for 20 years to guaranty the $0.802 rate per kwh.

As well, the quote does not take into account, as far as I can tell, the known degradation in the performance of the solar panels over the 20 year microFIT contract or the typical need to replace, at my cost, the inverter somewhere between years 10 and 12

The warranties listed in the quote are:

  • 25 year manufacturer’s warranty on the Sharp 224 watt solar panels
  • 10 year manufacturer’s warranty on the grid-tie inverter
  • guarantee to pass the Electrical Safety Authority (inspection)
  • 3 year warranty on all components installed by the installation vendor

The quote was good for only 20 days, after which the installation vendor would need to provide a new quote.

Are the production numbers realistic?

I’ll get into that discussion in a future article.

For now, you should have sufficient details of the on site solar assessment to make your own calculations and draw your own conclusions. I’ll give you mine next weekend.

For now, to continue to the next article in this series on our experiences within Ontario’s microFIT renewable energy program, select this link to access our experience with the OPA’s microFIT on-line application.

Or, alternatively, simply select this link to go directly to our follow-up article on the Sun Volts International quote and our estimate of the anticipated microFIT rate of return.

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