Solar power for free

How to get your electricity for free — and even make a profit.



From the Summer 2010 issue of the magazine.


Imagine a day when you can’t wait to open your electricity bill. That day may be coming soon. A little-known program in Ontario lets homeowners install solar panels and sell electricity back to the province. Some say the program is so lucrative, they’re not only getting all their electricity for free — they expect to make a profit.

The key is the sky-high rate homeowners get for selling electricity back to the grid. When you buy electricity from Ontario Hydro, you pay roughly eight cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). But under the microFIT program, you can sell excess solar juice for 10 times that amount: a whopping 80 cents per kWh. Plus, the price is guaranteed for 20 years.

Alan Fung, an expert on sustainable housing and a professor at Toronto’s Ryerson University, says for most homeowners the program is a “no-brainer,” given the high guaranteed price. For now, only Ontario offers the generous rates, although some provinces will credit your hydro bill for eight to 11 cents per kWh for any excess produced.

Retired accountant Eugenio Etcubanez is already a big fan. He says he paid $46,000 to install the system on his Etobicoke, Ont., house and he expects to recoup the cost in eight to 10 years. After, he hopes to make a profit of several thousand dollars a year.

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