Two steps ahead for solar


Bruce Sutherland, general sales manager of MSS Ltd., stands below a solar array recently erected in front of the business.

Bruce Sutherland, general sales manager of MSS Ltd., stands below a solar array recently erected in front of the business.

Two more advances are being made for solar power in Hay River.

Sometime this week – it likely has already happened – four residences will be connected to the electrical grid, allowing them to take power while also feeding solar power into the grid.

That will be a residential first for Hay River.

One of those solar electric systems has been installed by Gene Hachey, co-owner of Northern Energy Innovations, at the home of Marge Whiting.

“It’s grid-tied,” said Hachey. “In other words, it’s feeding into the existing grid that’s here.”

The system can generate 3,000 watts as long as the sun is shining, which equates to two space heaters running steady.

Such a system means savings on a homeowner’s electric bill.

“Here you build a credit in the summertime and then you can draw down on that credit in winter,” Hachey said. “And then at the end of March, everything is zeroes and you start over again. It’s called a net zero program.”

Hachey said for Whiting that could mean gross savings of about $1,700 a year.

The initial cost for such a system varies due to a number of factors.

“You run somewhere between $3.50 to $5 a watt thereabouts,” said Hachey, explaining that would mean a system producing 3,000 watts could cost up to $15,000 in Hay River.

Unlike most people, Whiting has her highest power bills in summer because areas of her house require dehumidifiers.

Whiting, who heats her home with wood, said she is looking forward to see the solar power grid tie-in system work.

“Gene told me I can go out and watch my meter go backwards,” she said. “I’m looking forward to that.”

While there may be a little bit of power generation through the snow, Hachey said, “I tell my clients not to expect anything until February.”

As of Friday, MSS Ltd. was also completing the solar power tie-in of three houses to the electrical grid.

MSS Ltd. owner James Hiebert was working on one of the houses.

“This one is connected to the grid right now,” he said of the house, “But there’s no sunlight, so it’s not going to show you any production or anything.”

Hiebert said MSS Ltd. is also going to try a solution to prevent ice and snow from sticking to the solar panels on the roofs of the houses, meaning more solar generation during the winter.

“The snow is easy to get off,” he said of a solar panel. “Ice crystals get stuck to it and then snow gets stuck to the ice crystals.”

The second advance for Hay River in solar power is also at MSS Ltd., where the first of two large manually adjustable arrays has been erected in front of the business

The 12-panel array – known as a single-axis tracking array – was installed on Nov. 24 and can produce 3.6 kilowatts of power.

Its unique feature is it can be adjusted to better face the sun, as opposed to most solar panels which are static.

“It will provide power for MSS,” said Bruce Sutherland, the general sales manager of the company.

The other array will probably be installed after Christmas, also in front of the business.

Two of the arrays will also feed into the electrical grid.

–Paul Bickford