Solar Panels in Winter

There’s a lot of reasons to love solar panels in Winnipeg. We’re one of the sunniest spots in Canada, owing in part to our flat topography; no mountains to block the sun’s precious rays! We also use a lot of electricity, given how far north we are; in the wintertime especially, we need lights all through the day. Our more astute readers will have realized that the reason we need more lights in the winter is because there isn’t any sun; how can we generate solar energy without the sun? Well… we can’t. But that’s no problem, for reasons you’ll understand if you keep reading.

Solar panels generate way less electricity in the wintertime, it’s true. On the flipside, in the summertime, they generate a lot of electricity. Most of the time, people are out of the house in the summer, the lights are off, appliances aren’t running as frequently, and people with electric furnaces don’t have to run them. That means you’ll have a glut of electricity in the summer; you’ll likely be generating more than you’re using. We can use that to offset the lack of electricity in the wintertime. How does this happen? Well, unfortunately, batteries aren’t quite good enough to store the electricity, but there’s another way to get bang for your buck.

Manitoba Hydro will purchase excess electricity you generate, in a process known as net billing. Net billing differs somewhat from net metering, in that it’s a monetary credit applied to your account, instead of a kilowatt-hour credit applied to your account. You should monitor exactly how much Hydro is willing to pay for your electricity, as it may change over time due to fluctuations in demand. As of the writing of this article, Hydro is purchasing electricity at $0.03949/kWh – this rate will remain until at least March 31st, 2020.

This means that you can hire solar panel installers to set you up with a system that will quickly pay for itself; the credits you accumulate during the summer months can be applied to your winter bills, and you might never have to pay for electricity again. This doesn’t mean that you won’t still have to pay Hydro; there are other charges on your bill that don’t just relate to the amount of electricity you consume. Hydro needs to maintain power lines, generators, and other infrastructure; they also have to pay staff, and they sell natural gas. As a result, you’ll always see a bit of a charge, but all in all, you can get electricity to your house for very little money.

Your installers will assess how much power you need your solar panels to generate; they’ll look at things like what angle they should install the panels on to generate as much power as possible, and what your previous power bills have been. Try to use as little electricity as possible in the summer, and in the winter you’ll reap the benefits; you can also use as much electricity as you normally would in the summer, and you’ll still find solar panels drastically reduce your Hydro bill!