Solar Power Alberta (2021 Guide)
Congratulations! You’ve found the ultimate guide for installing solar power in Alberta!
Published by Rylan Urban on Jan 28, 2018. Last updated May 1, 2021.
Alberta is currently ranked the #3 province in the country for installing a solar power system, scoring as one of the best provinces for sunlight levels, cash rebates, and installation costs.
This page contains all relevant information about installing solar in Alberta including utility policies, system financing, solar incentives, and natural factors – updated as of May 1st, 2021.
The guide begins by answering the two most common questions about solar systems, then it explores each solar ranking factor.
You can read from top to bottom, or skip to your preferred section by clicking on it below:
Common Solar Questions
When thinking about solar power, the first two questions that often come to a person’s mind are:
- “How big does my system need to be?”
- “How much will it cost?”
You can answer these questions in three basic steps:
1. Sizing Your System
To determine the size of system that you need, you only need to know how much energy you use during the course of a year. Your monthly AB Power Bill will show your usage (in kWh) similar to the photo below:
You can calculate your annual energy by adding up the amount shown for 12 consecutive months. Don’t make the mistake of multiplying a single month by 12 – usage fluctuates greatly depending on the season.
You can calculate the size of the solar power system that you’ll need with the following equation:
Size of system needed (kW) = yearly energy use (kWh) / annual equivalent full sunlight hours (h)
(annual average ‘equivalent full sunlight hours’ in Alberta = 1,276h)
For example, let’s pretend that you added up your power bills and determined that you use 10,000kWh over the course of a year. You would then do the above calculation and determine that you need a 7.84kW solar panel system!
10,000kWh / 1,276h = 7.84kW
2. Physical Sizing
Now that you know the size of your system in units of kW, you can determine how much space the system will require by converting it to units of sqft.
The average solar panel is approximately 18sqft in size (including some buffer room for racking and spacing) and produces about 300watts of power.
The equation to calculate the space that your solar system require is again simple:
Physical space required = size of system needed (in kW) / size of panel (in kW) * physical size of panel (in sqft)
(average size of panel = 0.3kW, average physical panel size = 18sqft)
Let’s continue from the previous section and assume that you need a 7.84kW system. You would do the above calculation and determine that you need 470sqft of space to install your system!
7.84kW / 0.3kW * 18sqft = 470sqft
(note that 300watts equals 0.3kW)
If you’re putting solar panels on your roof, you should know that:
- A south facing roof is best, east and west facing are good, but north is not great
- You may need to replace your shingles (or entire roof) before installing – because panels are guaranteed for 25 years!
If you’re putting solar panels on the ground, you should know that:
- These systems are more expensive upfront due to piling, mounting , and trenching requirements
- They are more efficiency because they can be easily placed to the optimal direction (south), the optimal angle (~45°), and to avoid shading
- Thus, these systems are more efficient and have better lifetime IRRs and NPVs.
Most residential homeowners in Alberta put solar panels on their roof. Rural property owners put systems on the roof of their house or shop – or on the ground in their yard.
3. System Costs
The last piece of basic information that you’ll want to know is an approximation of how much your system will cost. To calculate this, you just need to know the size of the system in units of kW.
The rough calculation is simple. Just take the size of your system and multiply it by the $2.64/watt – the average cost of installing a solar system in Alberta.
You can calculate your total system costs with the following equation:
System cost = size of system needed x cost per installed watt
Continuing with our previous example, we can see that a 7.84kW system would cost approximately $23,384 to install.
= 7,840watts x $2.64/watt
Note that the exact price of the system depends on several factors including the system size, the quality of equipment used, and the complexity of the job.
Even the range in the chart above is just an average – installation prices can easily go as high as $3.00+/watt for premium equipment and high quality installers.
Ready to get started? Then get a free personalized cost estimate:
Every year, we score every province and territory in Canada on the relative feasibility of installing a solar power system. This year, Alberta scores #3, receiving a total score of 72/100.
The remainder of this guide explores each ranking factor individually, while also providing important information about installing solar in Alberta.
(if you want to learn how we score each factor, please visit our Provincial Solar Rankings page)
Major Program: Regional
Alberta is one of the most abundant provinces in the country when it comes to regional solar energy incentives. However, these is no longer a provincial solar incentive program.
These factors are important because they reduce the upfront system costs. We’ve scored Alberta 5/20 for this section.
Some important things to keep in mind:
- Per Watt. Rebates in the province are awarded based on the size of the system you install, in units of watts. Jump back up to the System Sizing section if you don’t understand what this means.
- Eligible Costs. Rebates have a maximum funding amount that is based on a percentage of total eligible expenses. In general, eligible expenses include the full cost of materials and installation, but not tax.
- Qualified Installation. Finally, rebates in Alberta must meet certain installation qualifications. This includes the stipulation that the system must be installed by a qualified installer with CSA approved electric equipment.
- Application. Rebate applications, including all paperwork, should be handled entirely by your installation company.
Rebates & Tax Breaks
Unfortunately, the large Energy Efficiency Alberta Residential and Commercial Solar Program is no longer available. However, several regional incentives exist for Albertan homeowners:
- Banff Solar Photovoltaic Production Incentive
- For Banff Residents
- Rebate of $0.75/Watt up to a maximum of $5,625
- Canmore Solar Incentive
- For Canmore Residents
- Incentive of $1,250 with a minimum system size of 2.5kW
- Change Homes for Climate Solar Program
- For City of Edmonton Residents
- Rebate of $0.15/Watt up to a maximum of $6,500
- Medicine Hat Solar Electric Rebate
- For City of Medicine Hat Residents
- Rebate of $0.70/Watt up to a maximum of $5,000
- Equs Solar Incentive
- For Equs customers
- Incentive of $0.10/Watt up to a maximum of $500
Municipalities in Alberta can apply for the Alberta Municipal Solar Program and earn a rebate of up to $0.90 per Watt. Applicants to this program cannot apply to the Efficiency Alberta Solar Program.
Businesses can now use the Federal Tax Provision for Clean Energy Equipment to fully expense their solar system. This means a CCA rate of 100% and the abolishment of the first year rule.
Other Clean Energy Incentives
There are at least 3 other energy incentive programs available in Alberta. While not considered in our solar rankings, many homeowners choose to leverage these (i.e., home energy efficiency incentives) around the same time they switch to solar.
Production Potential: 1276kWh per kW per year
Alberta is one of the best provinces in terms of the natural factors that influence the maximal amount of energy that a system can produce. We’ve scored Alberta 19/20 for this section.
Alberta has the second highest potential to produce solar energy in all of Canada, receiving more solar irradiation than any other province or territory other than Saskatchewan!
According to data from Natural Resources Canada, the average solar system in Alberta can produce 1276kWh of electricity per kW of solar panels per year.
Here is how much an average solar system can produce each month, as well as the solar irradiance potential map for Alberta:
This yearly average decreases as you move north and west in the province and increases as you move south and east. For example, a 1kW solar system in:
- Calgary would produce about 1,292 kWh/yr
- Edmonton would produce about 1,246 kWh/yr
- Red Deer would produce about 1,265 kWh/yr
- Lethbridge would produce about 1,330 kWh/yr
- Sherwood Park would produce 1,246 kWh/yr
Recall that this is the number we used in the System Sizing section!
(maps and solar irradiance data for all other provinces and territories can be found on our Solar Maps page.)
Connection Policy: Net Billing
Rate Design: $0.17/kWh, Flat
Alberta scores on the lower end in terms of utility related factors.
Utility factors determine how much money your utility will pay you for the power you produce, along with how much money you will save on your power bill by reducing your usage. We’ve scored Alberta 24/30 for this section.
Net Metering is one of the most important policy mechanisms that makes solar a feasible energy generation option.
Net Metering essentially means that you earn credits for the excess energy that you produce, which can then be used at a later time. It’s common to produce excess energy during the day and summer but not enough at night and during the winter – so this policy is important!
Good net metering policy allows you to earn full credits for your excess energy which can be carried month-to-month. Bad net metering policy allows you to earn only partial credits for excess energy and credits can’t be carried forward month-to-month.
Alberta has an alternative to net metering called ‘net billing’, which falls in the “bad” category. Instead of generating credits for the energy that you produce, you are simply compensated for it.
The problem with this is that your compensation amount is typically less than the total cost of electricity in Alberta.
Solar Setup Fees
Alberta’s Micro-generation Regulation dictates that you don’t need to pay for an interconnection study or a bi-directional meter when you switch to solar power.
This is opposed to many provinces like its two neighbours to the east, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, where interconnection and bi-directional meter fees can reach over $1000!
Alberta is one of the better provinces for solar with respect to electricity prices – higher prices mean higher savings potential.
Based on a monthly usage of 1,000kWh, the average total cost of electricity in Alberta is $0.166/kWh (this number includes both fixed and variable costs).
This number is higher than the Canadian average of $0.138/kWh (excluding the territories), meaning that property owners in Alberta have a lot of potential savings!
(methodology and data on other provinces and territories can be found on our Electricity Prices page.)
Utility Bill Rate Design
Good electricity rate design allows you to save money when you save energy. This might sound intuitive – but not all provinces are same. Superior designs have low fixed monthly fees and tiered electricity rates. Inferior designs have high fixed fees and flat electricity rates.
Alberta score near last in this respect – having flat rates and high fixed monthly fees averaging $40.
For example, reducing your electricity bill from 1,500 to 750 kWh per month will save you 54% on your electricity bill in British Columbia, 48% in Nova Scotia, but only 41% in Alberta!
Note that fixed monthly fees don’t disappear even if you switch to solar – you’ll pay them as long as you remain connected to the grid. But this isn’t a bad thing – $40/mo is a small price to pay for using the grid as your back-up energy source!
(methodology on our Electricity Prices page.)
The only way to completely remove your fixed costs is to go off the grid, something most homeowners in Alberta don’t do because of high battery costs.
Disconnecting from the grid also means that you won’t be able to participate in the your utility’s net billing program.
Upfront Cost: $2.64/watt
Financing: Partial PACE
Alberta is one of the best province in the country when it comes to financial factors because of low up-front costs and PACE financing options. We’ve scored Alberta 24/30 for this section.
Cost of Installation
The upfront cost of installation is obviously one of the largest factors that determine whether or not a person is going to switch to solar. The current average price range in Alberta is about $2.51-$2.77/kW.
(not sure what this number means or how to use it? Jump back up to the Common Questions section.)
However, the price can easily be higher or lower depending on the size of the system, the complexity of the job, the type of equipment used, and even on the quality of your installation company.
In general, aiming for the cheapest price shouldn’t be your goal. Most solar panels are guaranteed to last for 25 years, so you want to make sure that your installation job is good enough to support that.
You’ll also want to be sure that the company you choose will be around in 5 to 10 years from now in case you need service or warranty work done. If you get a quote through us, we’ll connect you with a pre-vetted installer!
Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) is an innovative financing option that allows you to cover the entire upfront cost of your solar system (or energy efficiency upgrades) with a $0 down, long amortization period, low interest ‘loan’.
However, unlike a typical loan, this loan is attached to your property (not you) and is paid back on your property tax bill as a Local Improvement Charge (LIC). The only eligibility is that you need to own a certain portion of your home.
The PACE program is currently available in Canmore, Edmonton, Rocky Mountain House, and others. You can read the latest updates on the PACEAlberta website.
Other Solar Financing
Obviously though, PACE is not the only way to finance a solar system. Systems can be financed by cash, bank loans, installer financing, home equity loans, a home equity line of credit, a mortgage (for new builds), or through energy loans.
We’ve found at least two other options for Albertan homeowners:
- RBC Energy Saver Loan (bank energy loan)
- Up to 10 years amortization
- RBC contact number: 1-800-769-2511
- EQUS (utility energy loan)
- Up to $15,000
Solar Power Alberta
Because of regional rebates, low installation costs, high sunlight levels, and PACE financing options – we rank Alberta as being the #3 province in the country for switching to solar power!
Ready to get started? Then get a free personalized cost estimate: