Ever thought of installing solar panels or a wind energy system at your home or cottage? What about adding a solar hot water system for your home? The cost of renewable power systems is dropping and the advantages are steadily increasing -- from protection against power outages to improved air quality. You might be surprised at what you can achieve by adding a couple of solar panels, a solar hot water system or small wind turbine to your roof.
Good news: Ontario now has a province-wide net metering program. This means that you can now connect your solar, wind or micro-hydro system directly to the provincial power grid. This has a number of potential advantages:
- You pay only for the "net" amount of power you use from the grid. The power your renewable system generates is deducted from the total amount of power you consume and you pay only for the difference (if you generate more power than you use, you will not be paid by your utility for the excess, but you will be displacing dirty coal power.)
- You can more easily use renewable power to meet just some of your power needs. At the cottage, for example, you can use renewable power to supply electricity for lighting and small appliances, but still draw from the grid to run large appliances or large power tools.
- You could use net metering to lower the cost of your renewable system by doing without batteries or by reducing the size of your battery bank. With a grid connection, you can feed power to the grid during the day and draw from the grid instead of batteries at night or when renewable generation is low (on cloudy or windless days, for example).
For more information, visit the Ontario Ministry of Energy website at www.mei.gov.on.ca/english/energy/renewable/?page=net-metering
Photovoltaics (Solar Power)
Photovoltaic (or PV) systems convert light energy into electricity. Most commonly known as "solar cells," PV systems are already an important part of our lives. Simple PV systems power many small appliances we use on a daily basis. More complicated systems provide electricity for pumping water, powering communications equipment and even powering parking meters in Toronto.
Solar cells are thin wafers of silicon which, when exposed to sunlight, produce DC electric current. When a number of solar cells are mounted on a surface and are wired together in series, they become a solar module or panel, the building block of a solar photovoltaic system.
Solar PV applications are most cost-effective in remote areas where the cost of running electrical service outweighs the cost of the PV equipment. The solar photovoltaic module's relatively high initial cost is offset by a very long life and very low maintenance requirements.
Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA)
United States Department of Energy
Solar Domestic Hot Water (SDHW) heating is one of the most efficient and least expensive of the renewable energy technologies. A typical system will reduce the need for conventional water heating by about one-half. SDHW systems use the sun to heat either water or a heat-transfer fluid in collectors that are mounted on your roof. Each system has two separate components:
- the collector which converts the sun's energy to heat and
- an insulated storage tank to keep the water hot until ready for use.
Sometimes the plumbing from a solar heater connects to a house's existing water heater, which stays inactive as long as the water coming in is hot or hotter than the temperature setting on the indoor water heater. When it falls below this temperature, the home's water heater can kick in to make up the difference. High-temperature solar water heaters can provide energy-efficient hot water and hot water heat for large commercial and industrial facilities.
Solar space heating
A solar space heating system may use the same components as an SDHW systems, but ties into the heating distribution system in your household. Distribution systems that can work with SDHW include hydronic radiator and floor-coil systems and forced-air systems.
Wind energy is a form of solar energy, created by circulation patterns in the Earth's atmosphere that are driven by heat from the sun.
The energy that the wind contains can either be used directly, for sailing or to grind grain for example, or it can be converted into electricity. The energy that is contained in wind is used to spin the rotor of a turbine, and the turbine rotor drives the shaft of a generator to produce electricity.
Wind is one of the fastest growing forms of electricity production in the world today. In Toronto, the Toronto Renewable Energy Co-op (TREC) recently erected the first urban-sited wind turbine in North America on the grounds of Exhibition Place in west Toronto. Wind developments are appearing all over Ontario.
Erecting your own small wind turbine is also becoming an increasingly practical and affordable option, especially for those in areas with steady, sustained winds.
Ontario Sustainable Energy Association (OSEA)
Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA)
American Wind Energy Association - How Wind Works factsheet (Acrobat format)
The generation of electricity using micro-hydro technology is fairly similar to the generation of electricity by a wind turbine. Instead of air, however, the energy of falling water is harnessed and converted to mechanical energy by turbines. Jets of water spin the cup shaped blades of the turbine which drives an alternator, generating electricity.
As little as 400 liters per minute falling three meters through a pipe, or 20 liters per minute falling 60 meters through a pipe, can supply enough power to run a small household.
Selected lnks to U.S. alternative energy websites.
Source for Renewable Energy
Solar Words Inc.
Real Goods - Products for an Ecologically Sustainable Future
Residential Environmental Design
Solar Energy - Residential & Commercial Solar Products
MrSolar.com - Your Solar Energy Source
The Energy Outlet