Solar Power Northwest Territories (2021 Guide)
Congratulations! You’ve found the ultimate guide for installing solar power in the Northwest Territories!
Published by Rylan Urban on Jul 6, 2018. Last updated May 1, 2021.
The Northwest Territories is currently ranked the #4 province/territory in the country for installing a solar power system, scoring as one of the best provinces/territories for cash rebates and utility-related factors.
This page contains all relevant information about installing solar in the Northwest Territories 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 Northland Utilities Power Bill (or NTPC 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 the Northwest Territories = 1,064h)
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 9.40kW solar panel system!
10,000kWh / 1,064h = 9.40kW
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 9.40kW system. You would do the above calculation and determine that you need 564sqft of space to install your system!
9.40kW / 0.3kW * 18sqft = 564sqft
(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 the Northwest Territories 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 $3.05/watt – the average cost of installing a solar system in the Northwest Territories.
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 9.40kW system would cost approximately $28,670 to install.
= 9,400watts x $3.05/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 $3.50+/watt for premium equipment and high quality installers.
Every year, we score every province and territory in Canada on the relative feasibility of installing a solar power system. This year, the Northwest Territories scores #4, receiving a total score of 70/100.
The remainder of this guide explores each ranking factor individually, while also providing important information about installing solar in the Northwest Territories.
(if you want to learn how we score each factor, please visit our Provincial Solar Rankings page)
Major Program: Alternative Energy Program
The Northwest Territories is one of the few provinces/territories with a large solar incentive. *However, it’s only available to off-grid and non-hydro residents.
These factors are important because they reduce the upfront system costs. We’ve scored the Northwest Territories 11/20 for this section.
Some important things to keep in mind:
- Eligible Costs. Most 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 the cost of taxes.
- Qualified Installation. Finally, rebates in the Northwest Territories must meet certain installation qualifications including the use of CSA approved electric equipment.
- Application. Rebate applications, including all paperwork, should be handled entirely by your installation company.
Rebates & Tax Breaks
The largest solar rebate program in the Northwest Territories is the Alternative Energy Technologies Program (AETP).
The program allows property owners to receive a 50% rebate on the total cost a solar system including installation up to a maximum rebate amount of $20,000.
However, funding is not available for on-grid buildings that use hydroelectricity. That means that many property owners in Yellowknife, Fort Smith, and Hay River are excluded from this rebate program.
Here is what the savings would look like for a 9.4kW system:
($28,670) x 50% = $14,335
Thus, the cost of a 9.4kW system would decrease from $28,670 to $14,335. Go back to the Common Solar Questions section if you’re not sure where these numbers are coming from!
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 the Northwest Territories. 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: 1064kWh per kW per year
The Northwest Territories is one of the worst provinces in terms of the natural factors that influence the maximal amount of energy that a system can produce. We’ve scored the Northwest Territories 16/20 for this section.
The Northwest Territories has the fourth-lowest potential to produce solar energy in all of Canada, receiving less solar irradiation than any other province or territory other than BC, Yukon and Newfoundland.
According to data from Natural Resources Canada, the average solar system in the Northwest Territories can produce 1064kWh 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 the Northwest Territories:
This yearly average decreases as you move north in the province and increases as you move south. For example, a 1kW solar system in:
- Yellowknife would produce about 1,095 kWh/yr
- Hay River would produce about 1,125 kWh/yr
- Inuvik would produce about 895 kWh/yr
- Fort Smith would produce about 1,131 kWh/yr
- Fort Simpson would produce 1,076 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 Metering
Rate Design: $0.38/kWh, Tiered
The Northwest Territories scores in front of most provinces/territories when it comes to 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 the Northwest Territories 27/30 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.
Disconnecting from the grid also means that you won’t be able to participate in your utility’s net metering program.
The Northwest Territories Power Corporation’s Net Metering Policy fall in the “good” category for net metering policies. It allows for systems up to 15kW in size to be connected to the grid and credits can be carried forward month-to-month.
However, it’s important to note that net-metering credits in NWT expire annually on March 31st. Thus, you’ll want to work closely with your installer to make sure your system perfectly matches your energy usage.
Solar Setup Fees
NWT Net Metering Policy dictates that you need to pay a fee for an interconnection study whenever you connect a system to the grid, but not for a bi-directional meter.
This is very similar to most provinces including Quebec.
The Northwest Territories is one of the better provinces/territories 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 the Northwest Territories is $0.382/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 the Northwest Territories 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.
The Northwest Territories scores in the front of the pack when it comes to these factors – having tiered rates and fixed monthly fees of $18.
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, 54% in the Northwest Territories, but only 48% in the Yukon!
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 – $18/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 the Northwest Territories don’t do because of high battery costs.
Disconnecting from the grid also means that you won’t be able to participate in your utility’s net metering program.
Upfront Cost: $3.05/watt
Financing: PACE Pending
Northwest Territories is one of the worst provinces in the country when it comes to financial factors because of moderate up-front costs and limited financing options. We’ve scored Northwest Territories 16/30 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 Northwest Territories is about $2.74-$3.35/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.
Fortunately, the NWT is in the early stages of introducing a PACE program with An Act to Amend the Cities, Towns and Villages Act being passed in 2018.
Other Energy 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.
Options for Northwest Territories homeowners:
- RBC Energy Saver Loan (energy loan)
- Up to 10 years amortization
- RBC contact number: 1-800-769-2511
Solar Power Northwest Territories
Because of the Northwest Territories’ high electricity rates, 50% solar rebate, and decent sunlight levels – we rank NWT as being the #4 best province/territory in the country for switching to solar power.
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