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Buildings Rooftop of almost zero net energy home in Kamloops - Courtesy Riverside Energy

Published on February 7th, 2014 | by Roy L Hales

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British Columbia’s Climate Better For Solar Power Than Germany’s Or Japan’s

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February 7th, 2014 by  

Originally published on The Ecoreport.

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According to a provincial government study called the Potential for Solar Power in British Columbia: 2007 to 2025, BC’s climate is much more amenable to solar than either Germany’s or Japan’s. The average production of a PV solar array in Kamloops, for example, is 1160 kWh/kW of PV installed. Even Vancouver (1009) has much more solar potential than Tokyo (885) or Berlin (only 848). Ben Giudici, of Kamloops-based Riverside Energy Systems, provided a copy of the study.

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Ben Giudici (l) and Paul Fletcher, the Principals of Riverside Energy Systems

“I believe a modestly equipped sustainable home, utilizing solar to produce 50% or more of its own operating electricity, can be built with little or no increase to the building budget if the owner and builder base key construction details on reduction of energy consumption, and are willing to trade off some aesthetics for renewable energy equipment,” said Giudici.

“Construction practices and results in our building industry suggest BC residents are more inclined to equip their homes with granite counter tops, hot tubs, swimming pools, cobblestone driveways and/or other features devoid of monetary pay back, than with grid-connected solar arrays which do offer a return on investment,” he added.

Riverside was founded in 1995 and will have completed more than 20 grid-connected solar PV installations by the end of this year. It also provides off-grid solar, wind and micro-hydro systems.

House in Kamloops BC that produced 75%  of the energy needed, during the year it was monitored - Photo courtesy Riverside Energy

House in Kamloops BC that produced 75% of energy needed during the year it was monitored. Photo courtesy Riverside Energy

In 2010, Riverside designed and installed the solar PV system for what was meant to be a zero-net-energy home. Though PV produced almost exactly as expected, the building’s other operating systems consumed more than estimated and solar hot water production fell short of projections.

“During the year CMHC monitored the home, it self-produced about 75% of the energy it consumed,” Guidici said. “That is about 25% short of the net zero target.”

The design of a net-zero home begins with an ultra-insulated and very air tight building envelope. Every construction detail revolves around the goal of reducing energy consumption. After everything else — every electrical, heating, and cooling need — is reduced as much as possible, “then and only then are renewables such as solar PV, solar thermal, etc added.”

“The design and building process is arduous, requiring builders and homeowners to be very committed to the process and the desired net-zero outcome,” he said. “Zero net energy homes, like many other high performance systems, are dependent on their owners to reach full potential. (eg. a Ferrari will safely reach much higher speeds with a professional driver at the wheel than if I were driving.) Thankfully sustainable building practices do not need to be ‘net-zero or nothing’ in order to have significant impact.”

Jim and Cathy Brown agree. They are retired teachers who purchased a 5.8 kW system from Riverside in 2012. This provides more than 100% of their energy needs during the summer months, but not nearly enough from November through February. Cathy estimated it supplies 1/3 of their power needs then. They intend to purchase another 5.8 kW array and try to get that up to 2/3.

Cathy Brown clearing snow off their solar panels in Kamloops BC - Courtesy Riverside Solar

Cathy Brown clearing snow off their solar panels in Kamloops BC. Photo courtesy Riverside Solar

“You wouldn’t get anything near this rate of return if you left your money sitting in a bank account,” Cathy said. “And it makes you feel good to know you are doing something to help the environment.”

Guidici emphasized the fact it is all about choice. If a new homeowner decided to live with a a $30,000 kitchen instead of a $45,000 kitchen, and chose an asphalt driveway instead of cobblestone, “… renewable energy systems would soon be paid for.”

“If all else fails, construction and operating costs can be reduced by making the home a little smaller. This is a paradigm shift which may not come naturally for many of us, but fading perceptions of ‘forever cheap’ electricity in BC seem to be moving more people in this direction.”

Photo at top of page: Rooftop of almost zero net energy home in Kamloops, courtesy Riverside Energy.

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About the Author

is the editor of the ECOreport (www.theecoreport.com), a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of North America and writes for both Clean Techncia and PlanetSave. He is a research junkie who has written hundreds of articles since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.



  • kevinmeyerson

    The numbers in this article are far too low for Tokyo. According to the data I am looking at on the Solar Clinic reports, systems in Tokyo typically get 1400+ kWh per kW per year. This includes some older systems. Solar Clinic has thousands of solar rooftop owners in Japan reporting their production each month.

    BTW, my system in Nagano got 1629 kWh per kw in 2013. The place I live in Nagano has slightly better insolation than Tokyo.

  • http://www.earthfuture.com/ Guy Dauncey

    Vancouver is more like 1,100 kWh a year.

    92% of the power in BC is already zero-carbon, coming from hydro (solar + gravity), and it costs us only 10 cents kWh, which explains the very slow and low take-up of solar PV. We will pass solar grid parity in the 2020s, long after everyone else. But that’s only a few years off, so not long until every house starts powering up with PV!

    • Gwennedd

      I think that when recent increases in hydro rates actually start hitting people’s bills ( and the ones announced for next year), BCers may finally start looking at solar as an alternative to increasing electrical costs. Kamloops would do well with solar, so would much of the BC interior…lots of sunshine all year long, even in the chill of winter. The coast is generally too cloudy all winter. Maybe tidal/wave would be a better alternative.

  • Ronald Brakels

    The figures seem too low for Berlin and Tokyo. The internet tells me 1,073 kilowatt-hours per kw per year for Berlin and 1,570 for Tokyo. And when I ask about this crazy sounding “Vancouver” place it says 1,380. This is supposed to be for optimally positioned panels. Maybe this study is looking at something other than optimally positioned panels, but I don’t know what it could be. Anyway, BC still beats Germany for sunshine.

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