Blog Post: Duncan Couple Showcase Solar Electric

The journey to carbon zero has been a productive one for Sandy McPherson and Alan Philip. The couple began investing in a more sustainable home after moving from the Saanich Peninsula to Duncan, BC, a few years ago. As they settled in, they began looking at a variety of renewable energy options before deciding on solar photovoltaic, also known as solar PV, which converts sunlight into electricity to offset electrical consumption.

"Wind wasn't feasible for our location, and we don't use a lot of hot water so solar thermal wouldn't have been economical," says Sandy. "PV allowed for flexibility and resilience, and on sunny days we think, ‘Wow! This is great.’"

Alan adds that it's a statement piece. "We don't want to be preachy," he says. "But we wanted to create a sustainable place to live and to be a demonstration site. PV is quite visible, so people would see it was there and it could set an example for others."

The couple moved ahead with their 1.75 kilowatt solar PV array with small battery back-up after meeting with Terratek Energy Solutions, a renewable energy company Alan says came highly recommended through SolarBC, a province-wide solar incentive program that ran for three years until 2011. It was the most successful solar pilot program in Canada. "We were reasonably knowledgeable about the technology because we'd been interested in it for some time," he says of their installation. "But we continue to learn a lot about grid-tie systems from Terratek."

Alan says the system has raised their own awareness of electrical consumption, including phantom loads, and what appliances they use. In terms of energy costs they are happy to report that they have seen a decrease, despite the small credits back from BC Hydro's net metering program. "We're not so happy about their rate," says Sandy. "They pay based on how much you consume, so our reimbursement is the first level rate of only 6.4 cents, compared to Ontario where they pay 65 cents per kilowatt hour."

The couple has taken their journey even further with insulation upgrades, the installation of a ductless heat pump and most recently a biogas digester, where their organic waste is converted into methane that they’re able to use for cooking on their outdoor burner. "We met a young couple at an alternative energy workshop in Duncan who ended up staying with us," says Alan. "He is an engineer and was starting out building these systems so he built and installed one for us in our back yard."

They've been able to showcase their projects to friends and neighbours and are currently part of an edible garden tour during the summer months. "We wanted to feature not just the edible part of it but the energy side of it," says Alan. "And people have been quite excited and fascinated. We're just trying to do our bit to educate people in the valley."



This is a great post - now I believe this has gotten me thinking as to how you could integrate solar power and gardening together in an efficient fashion. Something to do with the ways to allow plants to take more advantage of the incoming light energy for more efficient means of photosynthesis.

commented by Vincent Wong on 2013-04-2 11:41:05

Thanks for the feedback! Actually, solar and geoexchange are great for orchards, greenhouses and wineries. Even solar pumps for irrigation are quite popular... we have more info on that in our Renewables for Agriculture newsletter. Might help to inspire you. :) 

commented by Emily Kendy on 2013-04-16 16:10:01