Not all insurance companies are yet familiar with and therefore comfortable with solar systems. Solar thermal (hot water) systems don't seem to give them as much anxiety as PV (solar electric) systems, presumably because they introduce the possibility of fire or electrocution. Obviously a properly installed and inspected system is quite safe, but not all insurers know that yet.

Here therefore, is the text of an email sent to one insurance company, Dominion Of Canada, which gave them the information necessary to feel comfortable with insuring solar systems. This may be used and circulated freely, and I hope that we can bring all insurers up to speed shortly. - Mike Brigham [email protected]

Download Sample Insurance Letter here.

Dear ****,

Here is the more complete description you requested.

What I purchased is called a "grid-connected solar PV system" or a "grid-tie solar PV system". "PV" stands for "photovoltaic", panels that generate electricity directly from sunlight. I have 30 PV panels on my roof that generate electricity in the form of direct current (DC). Such panels have been in use all over the world for decades, and most have an extremely long life (15-40 years or more). The manufacturer's warranty in my case guarantees my panel's performance (output) for 20 years; you can't find a more trouble-free type of generating system.

The panels are mounted on rails which are securely fastened to my roof so that the panels run over the roof, but are raised up only about 6" from it. The electricity is fed from the panels on the roof down to a device called an inverter, which transforms the electricity into alternating current so that it exactly matches the grid power that we all receive and use. The electricity is then fed to a second electrical meter that was installed so that Toronto Hydro could measure how much electricity my system generates, and then the power is fed to the grid. My home would use none, some, or all of it depending on what we are powering in the house and how much electricity my system is producing at the time. Any power left over goes to help supply my neighbours and everyone else on the grid.

The key benefits of energy generated by solar PV are:

1. Less energy production is then required from the big coal and natural gas electrical generating stations, which are Ontario's largest sources of both pollution and greenhouse gasses,
2. They usually generate most of their power mid-day when it is needed the most by the grid, none at night when it isn't needed,
3. Because it is generated very close to where it will be used, it actually lightens the burden on the transmission and distribution portions of the grid.
4. Solar power is also not at all price sensitive to any fuel source: the sunlight is free, so price stability once the system is built is also a benefit.
5. Solar panels make no noise and usually lie flat on a roof, so are very unobtrusive.
6. Solar systems create no emissions of any kind while in use, use no explosive or flammable fuels, create no radiation or dangerous waste, and do not interfere with or effect any plants or animals.
7. Their installation and often their component manufacturing, add Canadian jobs.

As the government of Ontario is trying to encourage the generation of electricity from renewable energy sources, a mechanism has been in place for almost four years in Ontario which pays a premium rate to "micro generators" as we are called. It is administered by the Ontario Power Authority (OPA), was originally called the "Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program" (RESOP) and is now known as the "micro Feed-In Tariff program" (MicroFIT). Under the microFIT, such producers of electricity, once approved for a microFIT contract, are paid 80.2 cents per kilowatt hour, with a contract length of 20 years. The rate was calculated by the OPA and various stakeholder to ensure that these projects covered their costs and earned a 'reasonable' rate of return for the project investor(s). I can confidently confirm that it does because I was a co-author of one of the definitive Canadian studies on the subject for a project called "SolarShare" for the non-profit co-operative that I chair, the Toronto Renewable Energy Co-Operative (TREC).

My system was installed by trained PV system installers, all electrical work was done by licensed electricians, and the system was finally inspected by an inspector from the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) before going live. All electrical components are CSA and NEC approved and the inverters (most people have one, I have 2) must also carry two specific approvals; UL 1741 and CSA 22.2, which require that they disconnect from the grid within fractions of a second if any aspect of the grid electricity becomes irregular. This is required to ensure the safety of utility workers who might be making repairs somewhere on the grid after a power disruption. There are no moving parts and no batteries involved in my system, although such could be added as an option to provide standby power for use in a power failure. My system has its own website which anyone can visit. Its URL is below.

The RESOP program is presently under its two planned year review and in its revised form is likely going to re-emerge within a month or so, with rates paid to producers like myself that will be increased to improve the uptake of solar electrical systems in Ontario. All agree that these systems must become slightly profitable for people to own, or there will never come to be many of them operating. A "Green Energy Act" is also about to be introduced in parliament (Spring of '09 according to Minister Smitherman) in order to address other barriers to increased renewable energy uptake in Ontario. The Green Energy Act calls for 10,000 megawatts of new renewable electricity being added to the Ontario grid by 2015, and 25,000 by 2025. While this new generation will be a mixture of solar PV, wind and bio-gas, it suffices to say that solar electric generation has only just begun in Ontario!

Some related links:

MicroFIT program:
Green Energy Act:
Day Four solar panels (roughly half of mine):
Sanyo solar panels (the other half):
My inverters:
The company who sold and installed my system:
My system website: (includes pictures of my home and system)
My report on the economics of PV in Ontario done for the Toronto Renewable Energy Co-Operative (TREC) in 2007:

I should point out that although I will collect revenues from the sale of energy, no-one involved thinks of this as a business. Who would invest in a business that loses money for 20 years? It is simply compensation for electricity whose method of generation has numerous positive aspects. I am no more a business with this system than are parents are who receive child tax benefits.

There are still apparently some underwriters who are not comfortable with these systems, likely because they are simply not familiar with them. Since they are fully approved in all aspects by the electrical authorities, and are a desired form of generation being encouraged by both our provincial and municipal governments, I suggest the underwriters may want to get themselves sorted out on this sooner rather than later. Being a director of TREC, I can tell you that one of our projects called Our Power ( is working on clearing the hurdles still remaining for the adoption of solar PV and thermal systems in and around Toronto. We are in contact with 11 community associations encompassing over 2,000 homeowners at the moment, who are developing initiatives within their communities to get solar systems on their roofs. In the support tools that we offer through Our Power, if any real problems with insurance does exist and persist, we plan to begin offering a list of insurance companies who have seen the light (pun intended), by getting familiar and comfortable with modern grid-tie solar systems, so that adding them to a home policy is nothing more than for example, adding a small addition or new kitchen to their home; it is just considered to be an addition to their existing coverage.

Hope this helps, Pat, and I am happy to answer any of the questions that will inevitably arise.

If it would help, I will offer to tour some representatives of Dominion Of Canada and/or others in the insurance industry through my home and show them what is involved. I can also arrange to have industry experts on hand to answer any questions which I cannot. I would like to get this resolved soon, and look forward to your reply,


Mike Brigham