A Saanich councillor wants to see more solar-ready homes in the region.
“Every new house we build in Saanich should be solar-ready,” said Coun. Colin Plant. Saanich, he said, has had that expectation for the last four years, and future building code revisions could well include a solar-ready requirement.
Plant made this appeal as council’s committee-of-the-whole scheduled a public hearing for a subdivision rezoning that would create three additional lots for a total of four lots in the 1500 block of Ash Road. An existing single-family heritage home would remain on one of the lots.
The subject of solar readiness came up after staff flagged the issue in a report. “The applicant has stated that he does not wish to commit to construct the new dwellings to be solar ready, as is standard with similar applications,” it reads.
Plant then raised the issue with the applicant, Taylor Love of Love Developments Inc.
Love said it might have been a communication oversight, adding that the contractor actually building the homes was planning to address the issue as part of the development permit process.
Plant for his part hoped that the developer would address the issue prior to the public hearing. “My understanding is that the [solar panel conduit] can be done very easily during construction for a few hundred dollars,” he said. While the solar-ready requirement raises costs, the proposed homes would be around for 50 to 60 years, said Plant. “So why wouldn’t we have that in there?”
With these comments, Plant has drawn attention to the use of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems for electricity generation. According to BC Hydro, PV systems consist mainly out of solar panels, inverters, breakers and mounting equipment. Solar PVs generate power by converting sunlight to direct current electricity. Inverters are then used to convert the direct current electricity to alternating current electricity to be used in homes.
According to BC Hydro, a 1 kW solar PV system, south facing and tilted with no shading, will generate about 1,200 kWh per year or about 30,000 kWh over its 25-year lifetime. At a turnkey installation cost of about $3,000, it would take home owners over 25 years to recoup their investment at today’s average electricity rates.
Solar thermal systems can also be used to heat water, saving additional energy costs.
As of 2017, Saanich had 61 residential and commercial solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and 39 solar thermal systems, with solar PV systems now more prevalent for new installations than solar thermal systems. Several more developments — be they proposed or under construction — also promise to be solar-ready. All Saanich development applicants must also outline their solar readiness plans in anticipation of adding solar PV systems or solar thermal systems.
This said, it will realistically take some time before solar PV systems will help Saanich meet its climate change goals of cutting greenhouse gases 80 per cent by 2050, and use 100 per cent renewable energy by the same date. Saanich, according to the 2016 census, has 46,650 private dwellings, of which 22,145 are single-detached homes.