Prepping, homesteading and living the simple, green, independent life.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pioneer Solar: PV System For Free?

I received a flyer from Pioneer Solar in the mail the other day which claims to help people get a solar system installed on their house, farm, or business for free. Sounds too good to be true, right?

Well, like most things there's good and bad points about it and what might be a good deal for one person might not for another.

Here's how it works:

The Ontario government recently started a program where homes and businesses / farms that install solar or wind power will be paid a guaranteed rate per kilowatt for a 20 year contract.

What Pioneer Solar does is install the PV system for "free" but for the first 10 years, the money you're paid by the government for the electricity goes to Pioneer Solar.  You get to keep the revenue from the 10 years left in your contract with the government though.

The example in the flyer states:

Solar System Earnings / Month = $840
Solar Finance Payment               = $780
Initial Monthly Earnings            = $60
Eventual Monthly Earnings       = $800 (after 10 years)

They're promoting it as an investment that's better than stocks.  One way of looking at this is that you'll eventually be earning a monthly income with no initial investment.

However, using the figures from the flyer this means that you'll have paid over $93 000 for the PV system.

From all the research I've done I estimate that a PV system large enough to power a modern but energy efficient home, would cost between $25 000 and $35 000 to professionally install.  If you do it yourself it's could be half of that and you don't need Pioneer Solar to apply for a 20 year government energy contract.

Another downside is that all this energy produced goes to the grid and doesn't isn't actually used for your home. I assume however that once you own the solar system after 10 years, you can turn it into a hybrid system to power your house. It's possible however that the 20 year government contract may disallow this (I've written Pioneer Solar and email to clarify this).

Despite those downsides, you're still getting a PV system for "free" and making an income for at least 10 years from selling the energy.

For those who are looking to go off-grid and be a self-sustainable as possible, the prospect of waiting 10 to 20 years to use the electricity might not be worth it.  Though the income it would provide would go a lot towards becoming independent.

If you're looking to help the environment and make some money however it might be a great idea.

I know if I owned a property right now suitable for such a PV system, I'd be giving them a call.


  1. Hi Cory
    Did you ever get a reply from Pioneer Solar about any contractual issues with turning the system into a hybrid system?

  2. Nope, sorry. Never got a reply.

    There's tons of companies out there though that does this now and I have heard from some that they do allow hybrid systems.