Solar Facts

Solar Energy FAQ's

What is the difference between a grid-tied system and an off-the-grid system?

A grid-tied system is a system that is connected to the Hydro-Québec electricity distribution network while an off-grid system is a system that is not connected to the Hydro-Québec electricity distribution network. An off-grid system is therefore completely independent.

For a grid-tied system, the electricity produced by the solar panels can have two uses; either to be consumed by the occupants of the residence or to be injected into the Hydro-Québec power grid when it is not in use. The advantage of such a system is in terms of its reliability and the savings it offers, given that Hydro-Québec can always supply electricity in the event of an energy deficit and that compensation is offered when electricity is sent back to the network. In addition, although this will be discussed later, a networked system is less expensive than an off-grid system since it does not require the installation of batteries and a charge controller.

For an off-grid system, the electricity produced by the solar panels is directly stored in accumulators for immediate or later use. The amount of electricity accessible in an off-grid system therefore depends on the performance of the solar panels installed as well as the number of accumulators installed, which is not the case for a grid-tied system. An off-grid system is therefore more expensive since it requires accumulators to store the energy generated by solar panels.

In general, off-grid systems are more frequently found in rural or remote regions (where it is impossible or very expensive to be connected to the main electricity distribution network) while grid-tied systems are more often located in urban areas.

What are the components used in a solar energy powered system?

Every Solar Power System includes 4 main elements:

1. Solar panels, which produce electricity.

2. An inverter, which converts the low voltage current produced by the solar panels into a high voltage current.

3. Accumulators (batteries), which store the energy produced by the solar panels.

4. A charge regulator, which controls the intensity of the current and the voltage passing through the accumulators in order to increase their durability.

N.B. Accumulators and charge regulator are optional for grid-tied systems (since Hydro-Québec acts as a virtual accumulator) and essential for off-grid systems.

The solar panels will take in the suns energy and transform it to DC power where it is then transferred to the inverter. The inverter will then convert the energy from d/c to a/c.

Typical solar installation components. Grid tied solar power system. Net metering."
How many solar panels do I need?
It all depends on your energy needs, the level of solar exposure on your property, the available space and your budget. An average residential system consists of 10 to 60 solar panels while an average commercial system can have several hundred solar panels. In the case of grid-tied systems, Hydro Québec electrical grid is there as a backup and sizing is based on energy consumption. In the ideal situation we design a system which will offset 100% of your annual consumption. However we can design a system which will offset 5% and up. A system sizing approach is usually based on a combination of consumption, available roof area with good solar exposure and project budget. On average 10-40 solar panels.

Off-grid systems are storing their energy in batteries to supply essential loads. Here is it critical that the power system is properly sized to provide an adequate amount of power throughout the year - sizing calculations are based on the expected power usage of the load, ie. camp, cottage, lighting system etc.
What is the maximum power I can install?

It all depends on the type of installation (grid-tied or off-grid) and the application (residential or commercial).

For off-grid systems (regardless of whether they are residential or commercial), no power limit is imposed. The system can therefore have the power you want.

For residential systems connected to the grid (supplied at a single-phase voltage of 120 / 240V), Hydro-Québec limits the maximum power of a solar system to 20 kW AC.

For grid-tied commercial systems (supplied with a three-phase voltage of 347 / 600V), the maximum authorized power differs depending on the presence or absence of compensation. For commercial solar systems with compensation, Hydro-Québec limits the maximum power of a solar system to 50 kW AC. For commercial solar systems without compensation, no power limit is imposed.

How much energy can a solar energy system produce?

It all depends on the level of solar exposure on your property and the number of panels installed. As an indication, ten average solar panels of 380W of power produce from 2.75 to 3.50 kW of electricity per hour of exposure to the sun.

Knowing that an average Quebec family consumes 25 000 kWh of electricity each year, ten solar panels can provide 12% of this amount of energy. By relying on the average power of our residential installations in recent years (10 kW / 26 solar panels), our customers can meet around 50% of their energy needs.

How much do solar panel systems cost?

Including the labor, materials, permits and equipment required to connect your system to the Hydro-Québec network, the costs are:

$ 10,000 for a 2.5 kW system (approximately 7 solar panels)

$ 15,000 for a 5 kW system (approximately 14 solar panels)

$ 25,000 for a 10 kW system (approximately 27 solar panels)

$ 35,000 for a 15 kW system (approximately 40 solar panels)

$ 40,000 for a 20 kW system (approximately 53 solar panels)

As you can see, the cost per watt decreases the more you increase the size of the system since several basic costs apply to all systems, even the smallest. The more powerful the solar energy systems are, the more profitable they become.

Are solar power systems expandable?

If the maximum allowed power has not been reached and there is still space available, it is possible to enlarge your solar system. However, it is best to discuss the potential of expanding your system during the initial consultation as adding panels may require you to change your power inverter in the event that your current power inverter is not powerful enough to handle the new quantity of solar panels.

What happens if there is a blackout?

It depends on your type of system. If your system is off-grid, Hydro-Québec power outages do not affect you since you produce your own electricity. You’ll have electricity as long as the panels are on.

At the opposite, most grid-tied systems have no batteries included and will not provide power when the grid is de-energized. This comes fr om a Hydro-Québec requirement that independent power producers be unable to send dangerous voltage out onto the grid which could be a hazard to line workers.

For those worried about power outages, a system including accumulators can easily be designed. However, it is important to mention that the addition of a battery bank increases the overall cost of the system by 30 to 50% and that the amount of storable energy is relatively low compared to the average consumption level of average Quebec households.

How big are the solar panels? How much space will a system take up on my roof?

A standard photovoltaic solar panel measures 3.3 feet by 6.6 feet (1 meter by 2 meters) and weighs 50 lbs (22.7 kg).

10 panels = 215 square feet (20 square meters)

20 panels = 430 square feet (40 square meters)

30 panels = 645 square feet (60 square meters)

40 panels = 860 square feet (80 square meters)

50 panels = 1075 square feet (100 square meters)

What is the ideal orientation of a solar panel? What about its inclination?

The ideal orientation is true south since it maximizes the amount of electricity produced according to the East-West trajectory of the sun. The south-west and south-east directions are also acceptable but reduce electricity production by around 15%. When the system is oriented to the north, the production of electricity produced decreases by 30%.

Regarding the tilt of the panels, the best tilt angle of the solar panels is around 30 degrees, although a deviation of ± 15 degrees is acceptable. This tilt is the best compromise to maximize the amount of electricity produced annually.

Several strategies are available to limit the shaded areas, either by design in independent rows (in "strings") or by using the use of micro-inverters rather than a single inverter.

What happens to solar panels in winter with the snowfall?

Explained by the lower duration of sunshine, electricity production can decrease by 0 to 80% during the winter period. This variation depends on the extent of snowfall and the inclination of the panels.

What happens at night?

It is currently impossible to generate solar energy overnight using current technology. The Hydro-Québec network must therefore be called upon to supply you with electricity overnight. No action is required on the settings to transition from one source to another, since the entire system is automated.

What happens when I have to change my roof?

If your roof needs to be redone, your solar system will need to be uninstalled. It takes approximately 1 day to uninstall the system and 1-2 days to reinstall it when the roof is redone. No interruption of electricity to the home is expected during this process. Fees hover around 1500 $ and depend on the size of your system.

Can I use my land instead of roof space?

Absolutely! A floor system can very well be installed. Be aware, however, that such a type of installation is more expensive because of the greater quantity of materials required. Please contact us for more details.

Can I install a solar panel system myself?

It is possible to install a solar panel system by yourself but be aware that you will have no guarantees, either in terms of labor or civil liability. You will have to manage with the manufacturer of the solar panels yourself in the event of breakage and / or failure and you will have to acquire all the necessary permits yourself (municipal permit, permission to connect Hydro-Québec, etc.) . You will also need to use the services of a master electrician to connect your system to the Hydro-Québec network.

Can I make money with solar energy production in Québec?

The compensations offered by Hydro-Québec are in the form of credits applied to the balance of your electricity bill. So although you will not receive monetary credits, you will still lower your electricity bill, which is equivalent to saving money.

How Can I check how much electricity my solar power system is producing?

For all the systems we install we offer a free monitoring tool that displays the electricity production data of your solar panels in real time. You can access this data from your smartphone, tablet or any other device connected to the Internet, at any time.

Can a solar panel system increase the value of my house?

Absolutely! According to a study published in 2011 by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the installation of solar panels increases the value of a property by about 3.5% since potential buyers will appreciate the idea of saving on their bills. A solar panel system is therefore an investment, not only for yourself, but also for your home, office, business and the environment.

Please read this great article in Forbes How Much Do Solar Panels Boost Home Sale Prices?

Grid tied solar energy powered system - how long will it last?

Any solar panel has two types of guarantee, a physical guarantee and a linear guarantee of efficiency.

The physical warranty is generally 10 to 25 years (depending on the manufacturer) and covers any physical damage to your solar panels.

The linear efficiency guarantee is 20 to 25 years (depending on the manufacturer) and concerns the efficiency of your solar panels. The guarantee is generally 80% and testifies to the effectiveness of your panels after 20 or 25 years. For example, a 80% linear guarantee after 25 years means that your panels will produce 80% of the electricity they produced in their first year. Although they produce less energy, your panels will still work very well.

The decrease in their efficiency is explained by the fact that the glass surface of the panels becomes worn and can no longer absorb as much light. This linear degradation is applicable for any type of photovoltaic solar panel and is unfortunately inevitable.

Electronic components such as inverters and charge regulators, which are more sensitive, operate for 10 to 15 years before repair or replacement is required. As for the accumulators, they have a lifespan ranging from 5 to 10 years depending on the technology chosen, their storage conditions, the intensity of their discharge as well as the depth of their average discharge.

Are there government grants? As for commercial projects, tax incentives in the form of tax credits are offered (Class 43.1 and 43.2 of Natural Resources Canada).

Why go solar?
  • It’s good for the environment. Unlike conventional power, solar produces no harmful emissions that hurt the environment.
  • It’s a solid home investment. Many home improvements that you will make, will not add the same value that you put into them. Solar energy will save you money each month. In addition, the investment that you made in solar, will add its exact property value to the home.
  • Solar Energy systems are durable. Because of the way they are built they have no moving parts, solar modules are extremely reliable, with an expected life span of several decades. They are self-cleaning and require little in the way of maintenance.
  • Solar could help you afford home improvement you’ve been wanting. Lots of people design a swimming pool or hot tub with their solar system in mind. On average a swimming pool adds $200 to your monthly energy bill. Your solar system could be designed with that extra usage in mind.
  • Solar has a fixed energy cost. Hydro Quebec often raise energy costs, but your cost for a solar system would be the same monthly until paid off.
  • Either way, you can’t keep the money. Whether you’re spending money to make an investment in solar energy, or giving that money to Hydro Quebec, this money is still being spent. Deciding to go solar is very much similar to deciding to purchase a home. You can invest in yourself and take control of your energy costs, or pay your utility provider for rented energy monthly.
  • Too far from the grid. Beside from giving you the opportunity to generate your own electricity, a rooftop solar array addresses issues relating to the expense and inefficiency of distributing power over long distances.
Did you know?

In Canada, the average driver drives 20 000 km per year, which is the equivalent of about 5 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually. An average solar power system of 10 kW power avoids 15 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually compared to electricity produced using fossil fuels. This is the equivalent of removing 3 cars from the road.

The timing has never been better for you to invest in solar