Solar Power


On the roof of Unitarian Place are 40 solar panels, facing south and inclined at about 45 degrees. Each one can generate 250 Watts of power in sunshine for a total of 40 x 250 =10,000 Watts, or 10 kiloWatts (10 kW) . For comparison, a toaster may use 1 kW, an electric oven 5 kW. The electricity generated by the solar panels is not used in our building but is fed into the Utilities Kingston electrical grid. On the outside wall, near the north east corner there are two electric meters. One measures the electrical use in our building, the other, on the lower right, measures the amount of electricity generated by the panels so each month we receive two statements from Utilities Kingston.

The meters measure the energy in kiloWatt hours (kWh), not power. If our panels are producing 10 kW of power for 2 hours, that is 20 kWh of energy. KUF is paid 54.9 cents for each kWh. This is specified in a 20 year contract with Ontario Power Generation.  Each year our panels produce about 12,000 kWh of energy for which we are paid $6588.

The panels cost was about $54,000 when installed in October 2013 and paid for by a 12-year loan being repaid at about $6300 per year. So the net contribution to the KUF budget is not great for now. But that will change after nine more years.

The panels produce direct current (DC) electricity while the electricity in the Utilities Kingston Grid and all our houses is alternating current (AC), at 60 cycles per second. Thus the current from the panels has to be changed to AC at 60 cycles per second before it enters the grid. In the basement electrical room is a device called a converter which makes this change.

About a decade ago, the Ontario government, to encourage the development of wind and solar energy paid producers special energy rates well above what they paid for nuclear or water or coal generated power, starting at about 80 cents per kWh. As the cost of windmills and solar panels has fallen the special rates have fallen. Anyone installing solar panels today would be paid much less than the 54.9 cents per kWh KUF is receiving.