A solar journey begins

We’ve been away for much of the year since last August, and since we came back, Ontario has been pretty much locked down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so we haven’t got much done recently.

The biggest job still remaining is the solar set-up. We have solar thermal panels for water heating still uninstalled, and plans for solar photovoltaic (PV) for energy generation unstarted. One of the major stumbling blocks has been the backwardness of the industry in Ontario. Solar PV installers seem happy to provide only mid-range, out-of-date panels and lead-acid battery arrays, and as long as enough people keep buying these set-ups, they don’t seem to see the need to change.

Here on Wolfe Island we are pretty much excluded from participation in any government or electricity company subsidy scheme for PV because the electrical infrastructure here just can’t take any more micro-supply (or so they say). This despite having a wind farm here with one of the biggest outgoing electrical lines you’ll find, but one which is not accessible to anyone else. So many things were done badly when that wind farm was intalled, but the lack of foresight from local government and the private firms involved alike, around local benefit and upgrading the electrical infastructure on the island for multiple forms of renewable energy was inexcusable.

Now, with a new electric ferry coming to Wolfe Island in a few years, we again have new electrical infrastructure going on, paid for by the Ontairo government, and I bet, yet again, that there will be no throught to how the installation might be an opportunity to benefit electrical infrastructure here more broadly. I’ll be making this point to the government, but because the ferry and docks come under the Ministry of Transport Ontario not anything to do with energy, and Hydro One, our power supplier, is in the process of being privatized anyway, I can imagine that the combination of bureaucratic boundaries with a lack of immediate profit for Hydro One, will mean nothing will happen.

Anyway… we’ve finally found a very small recently started solar PV company that isn’t operating like it’s still ten years ago – Bobolink Solar, up in Perth. Company co-founder, Kelvin, and I, have already started talking about what kind of a system we can install, and prior to that, how we can reduce our electric demand still further. In the immediate term, this summer, it will mean installing Gree air-to-water heat pump – which is far simpler to install than a groundsource heatpump and almost as efficient these days – and removing our post-HRV heating element (we have a pre-heater ready to install already). Next year, it will mean installing a grid-backed up, solar PV array with Lithium-battery storage, along with our solar thermal water panels.

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Permits received

It might seem like a long time since we finished the build and the house was inspected, but we have finally received our permit. The reason for the long delay was firstly the fact that we didn’t get the old house demolished as quickly as we had intended (it was only finished last summer, July 2019), and secondly, the planning officer took quite a while after we had demolished the old place, to come round and check that we had demolished it (February 2020). We’ve been in Japan for most of the time since July anyway, so it wasn’t a problem!

So we are now officially allowed to live in the house…

Old house demolition

Our old house is finally being demolished… so next year we can finally start landscaping.

It begins…
Demolition is a lot quicker than construction (photo courtesy of Sus Bowers)

There’s a lot I could say about demolition and the environment. We really wanted someone to ‘deconstruct’ rather than demolish the house, but we could not find anyone to do this. Most did not reply. One guy came and had a look then never got back in touch. Others were busy. The demolition company we ended up using, Environmentall, has saved the windows for Habitat for Humanity but not much else escaped the machine. They do, however, sort the remains and recycle whatever they can. I don’t know how much that is in practice.