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6 things you need to know before going solar

October 26 2018, 11:28 AM

6 things you need to know before going solar

Is solar power the right option for your home or business? Due to the size of the initial investment to install solar at your property, there are a few important things you should consider. We’ve rounded them up here, so you can make the right decision based on your location, property type and lifestyle.

1. Conservation and Energy Efficiency

These are the most important steps.  People often overlook conservation and energy efficiency as a step in integrating renewable generation.  What good is it to pay a premium for a solar system if the energy is simply wasted?  Since most homes would use more than they produce, the first thing you should consider before looking at installing a solar array is “Can I reduce my energy use?” Have you done everything you can to reduce your annual energy consumption? As we’ll look at below, it can be much cheaper to save a kilowatt hour than it can be to produce one.

Cost to avoid purchasing a kWh :

  • Energy Conservation (insulation, air-sealing, changing habits, etc.) = $0.02/ kWh
  • Energy Efficiency (HVAC, lighting, etc.) = $0.07/kWh
  • PV Generation (Net Metering) = $0.12- $0.16/kWh
  • PV Generation + Storage = $0.20/kWh

As you can see from the numbers above, the biggest bang for your buck in terms of reducing your building’s energy use is found through conservation. Combined with energy-efficient improvements, you could see a big pay-back for your initial investment. We offer a suite of energy-efficiency programs for homes and businesses that help offset the costs of making these investments.

 

2. Types of solar

There are two categories of solar - Passive and Active Solar.

  •          Passive solar harnesses the natural energy from the sun to heat an area of your home. If you have a larger window in one of the rooms in your home, and you’ve ever felt the room get warmer on sunny days, you’ve likely already experienced the effects of passive solar. Passive solar is something to consider if you’re building a new home, where you can position the building toward the sun. Passive House Certified buildings consume up to 90% less heating and cooling than conventional buildings do.
  •          Active solar is the second, and most familiar type of solar. This type uses mechanical or electrical devices to store or convert solar energy into electricity or heat. The most common example of active solar are solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays you may see on roofs.  These arrays convert  solar energy to electricity for use in your home or business. Another example of active solar is thermal solar, which can be used for space or water heating. (use photo of solar wall for space heating and solar water heater for home water heating)

  
Solar wall used at Saint John Transit.  This example of thermal solar is great for commercial buildings 
with large surfaces facing the sun.

 

Solar water heating. Great for large water heating loads like hotels and apartment buildings. 
Can also be used for seasonal use like cottages and pools.      

                               

3. Location/ Orientation

Just like with real estate, location is incredibly important when considering solar. Get familiar with how the sun moves around your building and pay attention to how much sun it gets each day. Solar might work for you if you have an unobstructed roof (no shade), with proper slope that faces anywhere from Southeast to Southwest. Or it might work if you have a barn or yard that is unobstructed by shade, or a hill on your property.

4. Roof Pitch

Do you know how steep the pitch of your roof is? In New Brunswick, there are a few pitches that would work for installing a solar PV array. They are highlighted in the image below. If your roof pitch falls outside of this range, don’t despair, as there are newer options for racking hardware that your installer may be able to recommend for lower pitched roofs.

 

5. Roof area

If you’re looking at  a solar system on your roof, you will definitely have to consider the size of your roof in addition to its pitch. The average roof only has enough space to accommodate an array of 4-12 kW. A  one kW solar PV array produces about 1,200 kWh of energy per year as long as it’s at optimal orientation and slope. A 4 kilowatt array could produce up to 4,800 kWh of electricity a year, while a 12 kilowatt array could produce up to 14,400 kWh of electricity a year.

11k array in New Brunswick

 

6. Your energy use

Do you know how much energy your home uses each year? New Brunswick homes  average between 9,000 and 25,000 kWh of electricity use annually. R-2000 homes are on the lower end, with existing homes not built to current codes are on the higher end of that spectrum. The majority of New Brunswickers use some form of electric heating, which can account for 50% of their total energy use for the year.  Looking at how many kilowatt hours of energy an array in New Brunswick could produce annually, most homes would use way more energy than they could produce.

 

Want to learn more about solar? Leave your question in the comments below to be considered for a future blog post!

 

 

 

 

EV gearhead finds worry-free travel with eCharge Network

September 11 2017, 16:19 PM

EV gearhead finds worry-free travel with eCharge Network

As a certified gearhead, I love a good road trip. This summer, I wanted to find out if it was possible to travel from Montreal, Q.C. to Halifax, N.S. without burning a drop of gasoline. In New Brunswick, thanks to NB Power’s eCharge Network, I was easily able to travel across the province solely on electric power. 

One of the traditional arguments against all-electric cars has been their range, or lack thereof. Fears of “ohmygawdwillimakeit” used to be a common deterrent for people considering an EV, brought upon by a combination of small on-board batteries that didn’t hold much juice and an anemic network of charging stations.

NB Power’s eCharge Network, a series of public electric car charging stations strategically placed at popular locations throughout the province handily solves the charging station issue. My car for the journey, a Chevrolet Bolt capable of at least 383km on a single charge, erased any hint of range anxiety. Together, they made the perfect pair.

My first stop to fill up on electrons was at the popular Shell station on Grey Rock Road, right off the highway just outside of Edmundston. The eCharge Network charging station, in a spacious corner of the parking lot, was brightly coloured and easy to find. Two charging options are always available at the eCharge Network’s fast-charging sites: a “Level-2” charger, which will fully charge the typical EV in about 7 hours and is perfect for a top-up on shorter trips, and a DC “fast charger”. Knowing my route took me across the province, I selected the “fast charger”, which fills an EV’s battery to 80% in about half an hour.

Activating the station was easy. Prior to hitting the road, I had downloaded the eCharge Network app onto my smartphone and quickly set up an account. With the Grey Rock charging station selected in the app and the station’s charger plugged into the Bolt, I pressed the “Start a Session” button displayed in the app. Within seconds, the charging station displayed a “Ready” message. Pushing the machine’s big, green Start button produced a satisfying thunk and the Bolt’s message centre confirmed it was now hoovering electricity from the NB Power electrical grid. The process was no more complicated than getting gas and paying at the pump in a conventional car.

NB Power has done a great job selecting locations for the eCharge Network, as I had ample selection of places to grab a snack and use wi-fi to catch up on emails. As I waited, another EV driver pulled up to the charging station and used the Level-2 charger. That EV driver used their eCharge Network card to activate the station rather than the app. Chatting with him, he remarked to me how pleased he was with NB Power’s charging station installations. His opinion carried weight – turns out he has travelled over 100,000km in three years with his EV!

My other two charging stops, at the Irving Big Stops near Fredericton and Salisbury, were equally pleasant and carefree. In a tremendous spurt of happenstance, the charging station in Salisbury is directly adjacent to an ice cream parlour. Tasty treats and zero emissions? That’s a win-win if I ever heard one.

The well thought out eCharge Network made it easy to drive across New Brunswick in the all-electric Chevy Bolt. By taking the lead on clean motoring, NB Power sets the table for New Brunswick residents who are considering buying an EV or plug-in hybrid while, at the same time, making the province more a lot more accessible for current owners of those types of cars.

Be sure to check out all the details of the eCharge Network, along with a map of charging stations.

 

Living in rural Nova Scotia, Matthew Guy has immersed himself in car culture for over 30 years and relishes the thought of a good road trip. A certified gearhead, he enjoys professionally writing about cars.

His work has appeared on wheels.ca, HybridCars.com, and in CAA Magazine. Find him on Facebook and Instagram as Dude Drives Cars and on Twitter @DudeDrivesCars

Solar Net Metering: it’s not a birdbrained idea

August 24 2017, 11:15 AM

Solar Net Metering: it’s not a birdbrained idea

Nestled along the shore of the Bay of Fundy about eight kilometres from Dorchester is the Johnson’s Mills Shorebird Reserve and Interpretive Centre. The centre is owned by the Nature Conservancy of Canada, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving natural habitats, plants and animals.

The centre recently upgraded to a solar energy system that is able to power the entire facility. On cloudy days when the centre cannot draw enough power from the sun, it uses energy from the NB Power grid as part of the Net Metering Program. The program is designed to allow customers to generate their own electricity to offset their consumption, while remaining connected to NB Power's distribution system – so they can meet their electricity demands when their generation unit cannot.

“It was important for the Nature Conservancy of Canada to power our facility with solar energy because in protecting habitats and managing our lands, we want to minimize our impact on climate change,” Kerry Lee Morris-Cormier, Manager of the Shorebird Interpretation Centre, said.

The solar array is made up of 4, 250W photovoltaic solar panels with converters. EOS Eco-Energy, a non-profit organization based out of Sackville that supports energy conservation and renewable energy technologies, supplied the funds to pay for the array through a grant.

“By reducing our carbon footprint, we are having a positive effect on the environment here,” said Morris-Cormier.

“The Interpretive Centre was able to net zero their consumption last year using the grid as a reliable source when the sun is not present but were able to give all that energy back using the power of the sun.  It’s a great example of environmental leadership and stewardship,” said J.P. Ouellette, Renewables Specialist at NB Power.

The purpose of the Interpretive Centre is to provide a safe place for shorebirds to roost, or rest, during their migration each year from the Canadian Arctic to South America. Up to 100,000 stop and rest at Johnson’s Mills. The mud the low tide leaves behind is rich with food sources for the birds to store in their fat pouches.

Shorebirds fly over the ocean for three days straight before arriving in South America. These birds can’t swim, which is why it is so important for them to remain undisturbed while they roost throughout the month of August, and is why the Johnson’s Mills Shorebird Reserve and Interpretive Centre exists.

“We have converted this old cottage from the 1950’s into an interpretive centre so we can be here in the summer months to monitor the species and help inform the public of how special these birds and how to best visit the area without harming the birds,” said Morris-Cormier.

 

Flower Power

July 24 2017, 14:48 PM

Flower Power

We know our customers are very interested in green energy sources, particularly solar energy. NB Power is also looking into more options when it comes to solar energy, including the Smartflower.
 
The Smartflower is currently on the market in other northern countries with weather patterns similar to Canada. We are currently testing the device at the Energy Control Centre in Marysville to see how well it is able to perform in New Brunswick. The Smartflower is the first of its kind in New Brunswick and will supply energy to the building while we measure its output and performance.
 
“The Smartflower product is an exciting development that provides a self-contained solution for consumers who want to invest in green energy to supplement their energy usage,” said Tony O’Hara, Chief Technology Officer and Vice President of Engineering.
 
The Smartflower is more compact and attractive than traditional solar panels. The face of the flower follows the sun throughout the day, and the petals close after sunset or if it becomes too windy. It could generate enough energy to power a summer cottage.
 
This is just one of the many forms of technology NB Power is looking at to meet the needs of our customers.  In the future, we are looking to provide more and more products and services for New Brunswickers who want to integrate green energy in their households.
 
“It is very important that NB Power be a leader in the promotion of renewable energy sources.  This is a small example of how we are doing just that,” O’Hara said.

Introducing the eCharge Network- New Brunswick’s first EV charging network

July 7 2017, 14:32 PM

Introducing the eCharge Network- New Brunswick’s first EV charging network

EV drivers, it’s time to hit the road in New Brunswick. 

We’re excited introduce you to the eCharge Network- the first electric vehicle public charging network in our province. This network will include standard level 2 charging stations across New Brunswick and a fast-charging corridor along the TransCanada Highway, from Edmundston to Aulac.

Encouraging more New Brunswickers to drive EVs is an essential part of our plan to support climate change action. In New Brunswick, an electric vehicle owner can shrink their carbon footprint by approximately 80%, thanks to our renewable and non-emitting energy supply. By the end of July 2017, EV drivers will be able to pull up to one of the 10 DC fast chargers along the Trans-Canada highway and recharge their EV’s battery in about 30 minutes. With less time spent charging up your car, you can spend more time on the road, exploring all the great things New Brunswick has to offer- whether you’re from here, or just visiting.

So, where can you charge up?

By the end of July you can find the DC Fast Chargers along the TransCanada at the following locations:

  • Edmundston Truck Stop, Edmundston
  • Irving Oil Grand Falls Big Stop, Grand Falls (St. André)
  • Johnson Guardian, Perth-Andover
  • Murray’s Irving, Woodstock
  • Petro-Canada, Prince William
  • Irving Oil Lincoln Big Stop, Lincoln (Waasis)
  • Youngs Cove Irving Oil, Youngs Cove
  • Irving Oil Salisbury Big Stop, Salisbury
  • Magnetic Hill Irving, Moncton
  • Irving Oil Aulac Big Stop, Aulac

In addition to the fast-charging corridor along the Trans-Canada highway, NB Power will install fast-charge sites at five locations throughout northern New Brunswick in fall 2017, cost-shared with the New Brunswick government. Locations include the Restigouche, Chaleur and Miramichi regions, as well as the Acadian Peninsula.

Here’s a clip from NB Power President and CEO Gaëtan Thomas announcing the launch of the eCharge network on July 7 at the Atlantic Nationals Car Show in Moncton.

To find these stations as they become installed or level 2 chargers, check out our station map.

We’re working together with businesses, institutions, municipalities, and with support from important partners like Natural Resources Canada, to develop and grow the eCharge Network for the benefit of New Brunswick EV owners and those EV drivers visiting the province. 

Are you a business, municipal administrator or institutional representative who would like to offer EV-charging to your clients or residents? Learn more about becoming a charging network champion!

How much will it cost to use a fast charger? A standard level 2 charging station?

The charging rate is $15/hour, billed by the minute and based on the total time connected to the station. This rate is competitive with the industry standard. In order to use an eCharge Network charging station, EV drivers must become members of the network by signing up at eChargeNetwork.com. The rate fees for a standard charging station are either $1.50/hour (billed by the minute and based on the total time connected to the station) or $3.00/session, with the rate fee being set by the charging station owner.

Haven’t decided if you’re ready to make the switch to driving an EV? Check out this post to learn more about the benefits of making the switch to driving electric.

 

 

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