Ellison Community Solar Pilot Project

We’re working to provide an easy, affordable option for our customers who want to use solar energy to meet a portion of their electricity needs. If approved, the Ellison Community Solar Pilot Project would be BC’s largest utility-led community solar project to date.

This project would make solar power accessible to customers who are interested in solar, but don’t want to manage the upfront cost, placement, operation or maintenance of a rooftop system. Anyone who has a FortisBC electricity account can participate, including homeowners and renters. 

Our initial project application was reviewed by the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) in 2017 and it was rejected, but we’re going to address the BCUC’s concerns and reapply.

What is a community solar project?

A community solar project uses a central solar power array where people can subscribe to a portion of the energy generated.

In our proposed model, participants will receive an energy credit on their bill equivalent to the energy produced by their subscribed number of panels. This allows customers to meet a portion of their energy needs through solar without having to invest and maintain a solar array of their own. 

How does energy from the solar array get to my house?

The proposed project will take advantage of FortisBC’s extensive grid and existing assets. The energy produced from the solar array will be delivered directly to FortisBC’s electricity system. Participants will get an energy credit on their bill equivalent to the energy produced by their subscribed number of panels.

What are the benefits of participating?

The project provides an opportunity for customers who want to invest in solar and diversify their energy mix with an alternative, clean renewable energy source, but who face barriers in having their own rooftop solar array. Some of the benefits are:

  • no costs to install solar panels on your property
  • no maintenance or repair costs
  • upfront costs are lowered by being spread out over a longer period of time
  • it’s available to both homeowners and renters
  • it’s portable—participants can stay in the program, even if they move
  • the fee is fixed while customers are in the program, so over time it could result in a discount on participating customers’ bills

What if it’s not fully subscribed?

Any unsubscribed power output will be added to our existing electricity supply at a minimal cost to customers.

Will customers own the panels?

Under the proposed program, participating customers would have rights to energy generated from the subscribed number of panels and the assets would remain property of FortisBC.

How much energy will the project produce?

In the first year, we estimate the project will generate approximately 288,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh), or about 400 kWh for each of the 720 panels. This projection is calculated based on our service territory, but will vary slightly year to year, and is expected to decline at approximately 0.5 per cent annually, which is typical for solar panels.

Could customers meet all their electricity needs through this solar project?

The intent is to help customers meet a portion of their electricity needs through solar. The estimated output of each panel is about 400 kWh. In comparison, the average residential customer in our service area used 11,000 kWh in 2015.

What are the costs of participating?

We anticipate the cost to subscribe to be $90 per panel annually. Assuming this reduces the amount of energy billed at the Tier 2 rate, the energy output would be equivalent to $62.60 per panel (15.60¢ per kilowatt-hour). This means the initial premium to participate would be just under $30 per year, per panel.

Because the subscription price will be fixed for as long as the customer is in the program, there will be cost savings if the Tier 2 rate were to rise above 21¢ per kilowatt-hour.

Does FortisBC require this additional energy for its electrical system?

We’re proposing this project so we can provide service to customers who are interested in solar but face barriers in having their own rooftop system. We’ve secured enough energy for the next 10 years through purchase agreements and our existing generation. This is detailed in the long-term electric resource plan we filed with the BCUC in November, 2016.

Can both businesses and homeowners participate?

To make sure this solar option is available to customers who face barriers to having their own system, we propose to make 75 per cent of the capacity available to residential customers and 25 per cent to commercial customers.

We’re here to help

If you have questions about the Ellison Community Solar Pilot Project, you can email our director of business innovation and measurement, Mark Warren, at Mark.Warren@fortisbc.com