News Local

Solar energy prices still too high: Richmond

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver



The City of Richmond is examining whether it’s time to adopt solar energy on a larger scale, but it looks as if current costs remain too prohibitive.

Staff were asked to examine what it might cost to use solar power in the city and look at solar panels which have “experienced the greatest cost reductions in recent years,” said a report to council.

“In a number of North American jurisdictions with higher electricity prices, sunny climates and/or favourable incentive policy regimes, rooftop (panels) is now cost competitive with the retail price of electricity, and is said to have reached ‘grid parity,’” wrote Brenda McEwen, sustainability manager with Richmond.

“However, due to Lower Mainland’s relatively low electricity prices and low annual levels of sunshine, residential solar would need to cost approximately $2.00/W to be competitive with the retail price of electricity.”

The current estimated cost to install solar panels in B.C. ranges from $3 per Watt to $5 per Watt. Using a Canadian average of $3.6 per Watt, staff estimate it could cost at least $18,000 for a single residential solar system.

However, the city is already using some solar energy for its facilities, namely at the South Arm Community Centre, where solar air heating is used, at some of the city’s buildings at Minoru, and at three of the city’s fire halls.

Some options for the city would be to buy in bulk for businesses and residents in the community, potentially reducing costs. There’s also thought towards requiring new developments to source at least 10% of their energy from renewable sources.

“As costs decline in the future, solar is likely to play an increasing role in Richmond’s energy supply mix,” McEwen wrote.

“In the short to medium term, however, other energy technologies are anticipated to play a greater role in cost-effectively reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in the community.”