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Wind turbine, photo-voltaic and solar thermal technologies are all evolving and improving all the time. Our February 2010 information evening focused on solar thermal.

Lorena Mitchell and Herman Unrau of Evolve Green, a Steinbach based Alternate Energy Company gave us a presentation on solar potential for southeastern Manitoba. These are the highlights (Click on the images to enlarge them):

Herman installed solar hot water panels on his house in 2009. The chart to the left is the Manitoba Hydro printout comparing his electricity consumption in 2009 and 2010. If you have ever looked at your own hydro consumption history on line, you will understand the limitation of hydro's monthly consumption figures. The gaps in the data are due to the date Hydro actually takes the meter reading. Herman's energy consumption in 2010 was about 8,300 kilowatt hours less than in 2009.

Note that the biggest energy savings are in February, March and April.

Herman advises that if you are serious about saving energy, get an an Energy Meter. Evolve Green sells a small one for less than $25 that is used between the appliance and the wall receptical. It will tell you how much electricity that old refrigerator in the basement is using in a month, but its use is limited to 110 volt applications..

A better alternative, in Herman's opinion, is The Energy Detective available here. This costs about $150, and monitors the total hydro being used at the hydro entrance panel.

This is a picture of Herman's installation. His cost after subsidies was just over $7,000 in 2009. Those subsidies are no longer available, but the cost will not be much more today because the price of components has gone down. He says he would have done it even without subsidies.

Herman says his panels are too flat for optimum solar gain, and  also should be installed so the snow would slide off. Nevertheless the data above reflects their effectiveness.

The solar collectors heat water which is used first to heat domestic hot water, and when there is surplus that surplus is used to heat the house.

Prior to the solar installation, Herman was using electricity to heat water circulating through in-floor tubes. Because of this the solar conversion was easier than it would be for a house without in-floor heat.

Solar hot water in cold climates has become possible through the advancement of solar evacuated tubes.

Evolve Green also market photo-voltaic. An arrangement with Manitoba Hydro is possible, but the pricing environment is not favorable. Hydro will pay at best $0.075 per kilowatt hour. In Ontario, home owners may get as much as $0.80.

SETI comments:

Payback on any alternate energy installation should not be based on current energy pricing. Energy prices will go up. This needs to be taken into account when projecting payback.

Very little innovative, cutting edge work on solar thermal is being done in Manitoba. This is probably the result of the low hydro prices we have in Manitoba. For information on energy efficient housing check out the VerEco house  in Saskatoon. There is also a solar community at Drake Landing near Calgary. The Canadian Solar Industries Association,  CanSIA has good background on solar. Natural Resources Canada has a wealth of information, some of it a bit hard to find. This may be a good place to start. CMHC also has much more than I have read. Begin here.