Over the past year I’ve often been quizzed about my rooftop solar array. “But why bother?” The flippant response would be, “because it is 2016.” My neighbours have wanted to know how long it will take for the photovoltaic system to pay for itself.
Me too! Like everyone else with limited financial resources, I cleave to business certainty. I want to make shrewd investments that minimize risks and maximize returns. The problem is, as is true with all investments, calculating future returns is always subject to reckoning with and balancing implicit uncertainties.
In the case of solar panels, the sun doesn’t always shine. BC Hydro might raise its rates — or not. In the wake of the Paris Climate Summit, our governments might introduce incentive schemes — or do nothing. More improbably, thorium reactors might eclipse all other alternatives and bestow cheap, safe, and abundant energy.
After one year, here is what I know to be true about rooftop solar production in Cowichan. Based on technical predictions, my expectation was that our 4 Kilowatt system would produce 4.4 Megawatt-hours of power. In fact, we exceeded this and generated over 5 Megawatt-hours, equivalent to 75 per cent of our annual household consumption.
I know that after just one year, our family has saved about $450. (Equivalent to a return on investment of 3.8 per cent in a Tax-free Savings Account.) Granted, based on present values, it may take 18 years to amortize our initial investment; however, for me, the payoff is not calibrated wholly in dollars. This is an investment in “green infrastructure” and a way for me, a small investor and energy consumer, to affirm my confidence in a more sustainable future. Solar power generation is producing demonstrable benefits for my family and my community that will far out-live any doubters. I feel really good about that. My experience confirms that the forecast is sunny!