Case studies

Installing a Renewable Energy System

When considering installing a renewable energy system, there are a number of questions to ask yourself before you begin. Answering these and other questions will help define what kinds of systems you will be likely to install.

What is your current energy load?

This will define what size system you will want to install. A home or business owner might first want to reduce their energy load as much as possible, by using efficient appliances or having an energy-efficient building. A quick look at the average electricity bill gives an idea of how much energy is used each day, and will give an idea of how much would need to be generated to offset some or all of the energy needs.

NB Power used to offer a Home Energy Report as a service to residential customers. This was an educational self-serve tool that allowed customers to learn about energy use in their homes, including how their home compared with others and how they could be more energy efficient. A library, and various calculators (including a carbon calculator) were also part of the Home Energy Centre.

Each aspect of energy load should also be considered. As a rule of thumb, heating/cooling a house uses 50 to 60% of the yearly energy load, with the rest split between heating water and appliances or lighting. Each of these loads can be addressed with a different form of renewable energy system. For instance, water can be heated through solar energy or biomass — each of which can provide space heating — and wind can provide electricity. Choosing which load to address will therefore affect which type of system to install.

What good renewable energy resources do you have?

The location of your energy load, whether it be a rural home or urban business, will define the kinds of renewable energy worth investing in.

  • Is the building close to — and does it have access to — a steady source of moving water? If yes, consider a micro hydro system.
  • Is the building on a hilltop, in the middle of an open field, or along a coast or river? If yes, consider wind turbine. You can also refer to the NB Wind Atlas to see where the best wind resources are located.
  • Is there an unobstructed view of the sun throughout most of the day (such as on a southern facing rooftop)? If yes, consider a solar photovoltaic, solar hot water, or a solar thermal system.
  • Is there access to farm waste, or to a reliable and affordable wood source? If yes, consider use of bio-gas or biomass.

How much are you willing to spend?

Renewable energy systems are not cheap, depending on the size and capacity of the system that you want to install. A simple off-grid cabin solar energy system is easier and cheaper to implement than supplying the energy needs for your house. Consider how much you want to spend on a system, and what needs you’d like to address. Although renewable energy installations can be viewed as an investment to reduce electricity costs or gain energy independence, it has a large up-front cost, on-going maintenance, and often a long cost-recovery time.

We recommend that you conduct a lot of research. You should have a good idea of what kind of system you want to install before you talk to an installer. This will help ensure that they do not try to sell you something that you will not be happy with.

When you are ready to approach a renewable energy installer, talk to several different ones, so that you can be sure you’re getting a fair deal. Ask for certification and examples of other systems they have installed. Be sure to ask for references from other clients. Make sure that the installer fully considers what you want to have in your system and that they meet your needs.

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