Monday, 14 May 2018

A sample template for setting up a solar co-operative or non-profit

A lot of individuals and community groups are interested in creating community-owned or shareholder owned solar arrays.

With recent changes looming to BC Hydro's net metering program, there are both challenges and opportunities to make this happen.

We like to think of the opportunity side on this and are willing and able to work with groups to make their solar dreams a reality. Sweet Spot Solar will design your array using the most advanced software and imagery technology, and provide you with equipment at a deeply discounted rate if you're a legally constituted non-profit, charity, co-op, or similar entity.

There are lots of ways to go about doing this. Below is just one simplified example. Before we start, it's important to recognize a few key issues with respect to the financial returns to your group.

First, standard accounting and financial analyses do not work well with solar and other longer term investments in renewable energy - especially at the small scale. In our opinion, it's inappropriate to include factors like discount rate (or inflation) in calculations for solar projects. People who invest in community or cooperative solar often do so for ideological and other personal reasons, and including a discount rate in your calculation makes little sense unless the project is being financed.

Second, cooperatives and non-profits can usually get no fee bank accounts at credit unions and some charter banks. There is no reason to include banking fees and other kinds of fees. Initial legal fees may be required to setup contracts and this is likely less than $1000.00. Members should be able to do their own bookkeeping, taxes, etc. Such administrative fees are unnecessary, and even simple maintenance like cleaning of the solar arrays can often be taken care of by members themselves, or by the property owner as part of the contract. We also recommend that the array be insured as part of the property owner's policy.

For this example, we'll start with a relatively small array of 14.4 kW DC. This would be composed of 48 300W modules and our preference is for micro-inverters made by Enphase. They have the longest warranty of 25 years and are a proven global company with millions of inverters out there. They are also likely to last the test of time. Many solar suppliers are pushing two-in-one micro-inverters. We have significant reservations about the quality and long-term reliability of this technology given issues of thermal management. Electronics do not like heat!

If we base this example on an installed cost of $3.00/Watt, the cost of this array is $43,200, and 20 investors would need to provide $2160 each to make this happen. You may wish to round this up to $2500 to cover legal costs, and other incidentals that may arise in the beginning.

We recommend finding a landowner with a sizeable electricity bill. In this example, we have designed a fictional array on this farm near Monte Creek, BC. You'll note that there are other roofs on the property that could accommodate expansion of the co-op over time. Assume that the property owner uses 36,000 kWh/year. This array would be acceptable under BC Hydro's new proposed tariff since it won't generate more annually than the customer uses.

Here's what it could look like.

Below is the power production of the array. We have factored in a 0.3% degradation factor/year into our modelling for the solar modules themselves.

In this case, 52% of the annual consumption is covered by solar. This is important since it means that the solar generation will completely go toward the Step 2 pricing side of the balance sheet. For residential clients, a premium (called Step 2) is charged by BC Hydro for any consumption exceeding 1350 kWh over an average two month billing period. When your solar array is directed primarily at reducing purchased Step 2 electricity, the financial returns are 50% larger.

The first year savings with solar will be $2720, and this amount will increase with rate increases. We have modelled our scenario here on a 5% annual rate increase although in reality the increase has been 7.14%/year over the past decade when compounding and other factors are included. See another blog entry from us here.

Below are some more financial indicators on this sample project.

The payback for the project is just over 12 years, the Internal Rate of Return (IRR) is 9.12%, and the levellized cost of energy is 8.9 cents/kWh (already below current BC Hydro rates).

In order to make this attractive to property owners, we recommend that the property owner pays directly the co-op or non-profit for the energy costs avoided, and that this ends after Year 20. In other words, the co-op ceases at that time and the property owner is "given" the array. They will get another 10+ years of useful life from it - all without paying for it. With more current versions of Enphase's Envoy S monitoring system, and the use of production and consumption metering, this is quite easy and verifiable.

Here's how the dividends might look. Over 30 years, the avoided cost of energy is $171,292.34. However, since the co-op would cease to exist after Year 20, the avoided cost of energy in that time period is $91,096.75.

After the first year of operation, each of the 20 shareholders would receive $136 on their $2500.00 investment. If one were to place the money in a bank account yielding 1% (typical nowadays), they would receive $25. After Year 5 the dividend would be $163, Year 10 is $205, Year 15 is $258, and in Year 20 it would be $327. Over 20 years, shareholders can expect total dividends of $4554.84.

Shares could be giftable, transferrable and sold. We recommend that the non-profit or co-op have a proviso requiring that any shares on the market revert to them for future dispensation.

If Enphase micro-inverters are used in the project, and high quality monocrystalline modules, the non-profit or co-op would not likely have any additional capital costs in the first 20 years given the quality of this equipment and warranties. It may be prudent to holdback 10% of dividends annually to place in a contingency fund.

There is a golden opportunity to develop community and small scale solar through this approach. Let us know if we can help you by contacting our CEO Dr. Michael Mehta at

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Tilting At Windmills 2018

On Saturday May 12, 2018, our first DIY wind turbine competition was held at Gabriola Elementary School (GES).

Congratulations to Mary Mitchell for winning the best of show competition for her savonius-styled, vertical axis wind turbine. She made it from PVC pipe, fabric, and glitter! Her prize was a month membership to the Gabriola Fitness Centre. We would like to thank Tasha and Jo-Jeff for this generous donation.

Here's a video of her turbine in action.

We would also like to thank Rob Ford of Pacifica Metals for fabricating and donating the testing assembly, Steve Wilford of Solar Den, and Principal Dave Travers of GES and his faculty and staff.

Here are some more photos from the day.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

TedX talk: Solar Power & The Cultivation of The Self

On March 3, 2018, Michael from Sweet Spot Solar had the pleasure of delivering the following talk about solar power at a locally organized TedX conference held at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops.

In Clearwater BC today

If you're in Clearwater BC today (May 3, 2018) and want to learn more about solar energy, come and see Michael from Sweet Spot Solar. The Clearwater Chamber of Commerce is hosting a talk by him tonight beginning at 7PM.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

A new 4.5 kW array in Salmon Arm BC

Our newest array in Salmon Arm is almost ready to be booted up and brought to life! It's a 4.5 kW DC array composed of 15 300 Watt Canadian Solar monocrystalline modules paired with Enphase M250 micro-inverters. The modules are racked using a ballasted approach on this flat roof with Ecofoot2 and concrete pavers.

This array is expected to generate 4775 kWh/year and the cost per Watt installed worked out to $3.00 or $13,500.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Saving money with your own solar array is easy and bankable

With Sweet Spot Solar we are able to model very precisely your new solar array at the design stage, and use your consumption data to create the perfect array for your property.

BC Hydro has just announced that you will no longer be able to "over size" a solar array relative to consumption. Our work will optimize your production to generate just the right amount of energy while saving you thousands of dollars over the years.

Here's how it works. Below is a property in Kamloops that we recently modelled and priced. This house uses around 8800 kWh/year and a solar array composed of 24 modules will make almost exactly that amount of energy annually given its location, roof characteristics, and our choice of technology.

Here's what the house would look like with this 7.2 kW solar array.

We are able to include in our 3D model obstructions like chimneys and vents and also put in trees and other shading obstacles if necessary.

When an irradiance model is run for the roof, it looks like this.

This solar array will cost $22,300 installed. Below are the financials. Most people ask the wrong question and fixate on how long it will take to pay-off the system. We hope that the numbers below give you a different way to think about this. Solar arrays stabilize your power bills for more than 30 years, and rate increases become mostly meaningless to owners of them. It's kind of like owning an electric car. Increases at the pump are no longer as meaningful. We know that rate increases have been significant in BC. The graph belows shows the extent of these increases.

Here's how this model solar array will save you money. The chart below is based on this particular 7.2 kW array and the bills paid by our client. You'll see that over 30 years (the expected life of the solar array) that this client's power bill will escalate to over $450/month in 30 years. Even in 10 years it will be approximately double from today's bill. With solar, this bill will be less than today and will only go up to $23/month in 30 years time.

Another way to visualize this is with the graphic below.

What are you waiting for? Solar is the best option for most people to save money. We all know that power bills are not going to decrease over time. The sooner you build a solar array, the quicker the savings begin to mount.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Another solar array is coming to Salmon Arm BC

We are thrilled to announce a second solar array in Salmon Arm. This array will be composed of 15 300 Watt Canadian Solar monocrystalline modules racked on a flat roof with a very special ballasted system called the Ecofoot2. There are no holes in the roof involved in this installation. We are using the newest micro-inverter from Enphase called the IQ6+.

The Ecofoots looks like this when installed. In landscape mode, modules are tilted at 10 degrees.

The house that this system is going on will have an array similar to the model we created below.

Tilting At Windmills 2018: Saturday May 12

We are pleased to announce a very special all-ages event coming up on Saturday May 12 between 1-4PM (setup starts at Noon for participants) at the Gabriola Elementary School (gymnasium).

This event is sponsored by Sweet Spot Solar Company, Gabriola Elementary School Science Club, Solar Den, and Pacifica Metals. Prizes from the Gabriola Fitness Centre.

This design/build competition will have two categories:
Open (all ages)
Youth (16 and younger) 

This is "Tilting at windmills 2018"! Our first ever DIY wind turbine event where people will have a chance to make different wind turbine assemblies in advance, bring them to display at the event, and have them tested and reviewed for power production and other characteristics. It's a great chance to learn about renewable energy and to let your creative juices flow.

We will provide a 300 Watt permanent magnet generator for you to mount your turbine assembly onto, and a high-speed fan or leaf blower will be used to simulate wind. This is what the generator looks like. It's about the size of a coffee can - but a little shorter.

For more information contact:

Dr. Michael Mehta
Sweet Spot Solar Company
(250) 999-1947

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Professional design with accurate modelling = Awesome solar arrays

At Sweet Spot Solar we take pride in providing our clients with professional design and accurate modelling for your solar project. We use state-of-the-art satellite imaging techniques and powerful irradiance calculators to give you the best picture of what your solar array will look like and how it will perform.

Here's an example of a strata in Kamloops with a potential 123.6 kW array composed of 412 300W modules. This is not an actual project although we would love to do it!

If you would like your condo or apartment building, house, or place of business fully designed with as estimate, think of Sweet Spot Solar as the go-to people.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

An Exciting New Product - Titan Single Pole Ground Mount

Updated: April 11, 2018 [prices subject to change without notice; subject to availability]

Range: $13,700 - $17,000 + Shipping + GST depending on module selection, micro-inverters used, and manual or actuator adjust

* Not including installation.

Sweet Spot Solar is thrilled to offer our clients another high-quality, Made in Canada, ground mount that has many advantages. Let us introduce you to the Titan Single Pole Ground Mount.

This ground mount is designed to hold 16 60 cell (or 72 cell) solar modules in two rows of 8. It is approximately 27' wide and between 16-20' tall depending on the pole length used and the angle it is set at.

The single pole mount can be adjusted by hand or you can get an optional linear actuator kit to make changes to the angle throughout the year with the flick of a button. The actuator option is an additional $1000.00

They can also be grouped and are an excellent option for solar farms, community solar projects, or people with land that they wish to solarize.

When paired with a high quality bifacial module from LG or Silfab, these ground mounts can produce a significant amount of power. We are currently pairing the Titan Singe Pole Ground Mount with either LG 380W – 72 cell bifacial or Silfab 295W – 60 cell bifacial modules.

A bifacial module can make power on both sides. They work best on ground racks, trackers, and on some flat roof mounts where light bouncing behind the module makes energy on the flip side.

In areas where snow accumulation is an issue, they also melt the snow at a faster rate.

Let us know if you want a quote on these exciting options. This ground mount with bifacial modules and seasonal adjustment can make more than 6000 kWh/year of electricity in most parts of BC.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Everything you wanted to know about renewable energy but were afraid to ask

On March 21, 2018, Michael Mehta from Sweet Spot Solar did a radio show with Rae Kornberger on CHLY Radio in Nanaimo. It's a two hour show but filled with lots of great discussion about nuclear power, solar, wind, geothermal, marine energy, electric vehicles and the politics of the Petro State.

To listen to the show click here.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Limited Time Offer: Adjustable Ground Rack With Modules And Inverters

If you've always wanted solar but don't have a roof that will work well, why not consider a ground rack?

We are pleased to offer (while supplies last) a high-quality, adjustable ground rack with black framed monocrystalline Canadian Solar 300 Watt modules, Enphase M250 micro-inverters and cabling, and an Envoy communications gateway for realtime performance monitoring - all for the incredible price of $13,999 + GST + shipping. Installation is not included.

This rack setup is with 20 modules for a 6 kW array. When seasonally adjusted, this array can make over 7000 kWh/year depending on your location and local variables including shadowing. Adjustment can be done by one person and it is easy!

The 20 module array is approximately 34' long and is usually mounted on concrete sono tube piles. The images below are for illustration purposes only and do not represent the actual size of the 20 module setup on sale here. 

Thursday, 1 March 2018

A profile of one of our recommended installers - Amie Schellenberg

Amie is a professor of electrical at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops and she also does solar installations. She is a consummate professional with significant experience. To learn more about her, check out the following video. 

Sunday, 25 February 2018

A new solar array is coming to Salmon Arm

Congratulations to Tracey and Eric of Salmon Arm BC. They have purchased equipment from us for a small solar array composed of six 300 Watt modules, micro-inverters, and racking to mount this equipment on their shingle roof. This array can be expanded easily at any time, and they can add 10 more modules on the same circuit.

The 1.8 kW array will make approximately 2000 kWh/year.

Once the snow melts, installation will begin. They have opted to do a self-install.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Solar Strata In Kamloops BC

Updated: March 18, 2018

Sweet Spot Solar is thrilled to be working with Miles Pruden of Nexbuild Construction Corporation in Kamloops on the first solar multi-unit residential building in the city. Nexbuild purchased from us 64 300 Watt monocrystalline solar modules coupled with industry-leading Enphase micro-inverters and rail kits for their metal roof (19.2 kW) for $2/Watt! They will install the array. Each array is independent and has its own monitoring. This complex will have four separate solar arrays of 16 modules each, and the goal is to be net zero on each unit. No gas is used for heating or hot water purposes.Here's a rendering of the complex being built right now at 225 Schubert Drive in Kamloops.

As of today, only one unit remains available for purchase and it is located on the top floor. Asking price is $349,000. For more information, contact Miles at

Here's what the building looks like currently. Occupancy of the first unit is expected in a few weeks.

Miles and his team began installation of the solar arrays this weekend. Here are some photos provided by him of their progress. With a standing seam metal roof, and the use of S5 clamps, these projects are relatively easy, quick, and put no holes in the roof.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Limited Time Sale On 300 Watt Monocrystalline Modules

Our supplier just told us that they have 200 of these incredible modules in stock in Calgary at the moment. These are very high quality, 300 Watt monocrystalline modules with black frames. When purchased with inverters and the rest of the system from Sweet Spot Solar, we will sell these for $260 each!

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Another Example Of How Net Metering Allows You To Use The Grid As A Battery

A 4.5 kW solar array on Gabriola Island has been creating enough power for a 2400 square foot house to generate a surplus that is going into the month of December.

Here's a daily log of energy consumption for the house for the month of November. Going in to November this BC Hydro client had banked 1217 kWh of electricity. This is the rolling difference between what the solar array produces and what the house uses.

During the month of November the house imported 514 kWh from the grid leading to a new balance going into the December billing cycle of 702 kWh. You'll see from the bill below that the energy charge is $0.

To date, this house has used $224.22 (since February 1, 2017) with $61.00 of that being in the form of the basic daily charge, rate rider, and GST.

It's worth noting that the house uses electricity for 100% of its heating/cooling (there is no natural gas), runs two UV sterilizers for water purification (100% rain capture), operates 3 air purifiers 24 hours per day due to wood smoke from neighbouring properties, and charges an electric car.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Sweet Spot Solar Is Experimenting With Vertical Axis Wind Generators

Wind and solar might just be a match made in heaven. Sweet Spot Solar is experimenting with this technology and will adapt it with a CSA approved grid tie inverter. If it works as hoped, we'll have a new product line to go with our solar offerings. Stay tuned to our website for updates.

Canada's first solar sidewalk system is in Kamloops

Innovation in solar technology is expanding at a record pace and new applications for solar photovoltaic technologies push boundaries and open up new opportunities.

Canada's first solar sidewalk system was built this year on campus at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops BC.

The following article from the BC Sustainable Energy Association provides details about how all of this came together.

Drone footage from Dr. John Church

To learn more about this project, check out the website of the Solar Compass.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Here's What Net Metering Can Do Even During The Month Of October

One of our solar arrays managed to create credit during the month of October. This happened even with the heat pumps turned on early in the billing cycle.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Solar - The Future Is Here

Michael from Sweet Spot Solar is giving a talk on Wednesday night (October 25) to the Kamloops Garden Club (Heritage House, Riverside Park) at 7PM entitled "Solar Power: The Future Is Here."

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Your Return On Investment (ROI) For Solar Can Be Up To 5.8%

With our current sale on equipment, a roof-mounted solar array composed of 16 modules (4.24 kW DC) will cost you $7999 (all-in). If the installation comes to $4000, your full installed cost is $11,999.

This can return 5.8% for you and in 25 years it would generate $45,000 worth of electricity.

Here's how this works. This array will produce around 5000 kWh/year using Kamloops as a baseline on a house with a 20 degree pitched roof facing due South.

The average house in BC consumes 11,000 kWh/year. Since BC Hydro charges a 50% premium on electricity (so-called Step 2 pricing), most of the 5000 kWh/year produced by the solar array will go toward reducing Step 2. Currently, Step 2 electricity with the 5% rate rider and GST works out to 14.19 cents/kWh.

Over the past 7 years, BC Hydro rates have increased by 50%. We don't have a crysal ball to know what rates will look like in the future, but they won't go down! Using this as an annual average rate increase, we get the following table.

This table shows in the right-hand column the annual expected saving in a cumulative way. By year 12 the array has paid for itself. Most solar arrays will last 30+ years. We did include a degradation calculation (see decreased output per year) in this model since solar modules will lose on average about 0.1% of output over time.

The following graph shows the break even point.

Of course, financials are only part of the picture. A lot of our clients also want to "do the right thing" and to show how individuals can make a difference.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

A year in the life of a solar array on Gabriola Island

On August 23, 2016, a new solar array was commissioned on Gabriola Island. This array is composed of 28 LG310 Watt modules and Enphase M-250 micro-inverters. It was installed on this stunning garage.

Sweet Spot Solar estimated annual production for this 8.68 kW DC array at 9765 kWh/year under ideal conditions on an annualized basis.

For the year, the array generated 9290 kWh. For this year, the longer than normal winter combined with several weeks of smoke from forest fires reduced output by 4.87% from our original estimate.

Note the deep drop in production between the months of November and February. This is typical of a solar array at this latitude. During the Spring, Summer, and early Fall a solar array makes lots of extra power that gets banked as a credit with net metering through your smart meter to offset your winter bills. All without batteries!

From an environmental performance perspective, our monitoring software yielded the following calculations.