Solar evangelist Paul McCavour helps convert neighbours to sunshine electricity

By on April 15, 2015
Paul McCavour hands up a solar panel to Roger Huber (left) and his son Franco. The Hubers, of Swiss Solar Tech were installing panels at the Osoyoos home of Jerry McKay and Nancy Fath. (Richard McGuire photo)

Paul McCavour hands up a solar panel to Roger Huber (left) and his son Franco. The Hubers, of Swiss Solar Tech were installing panels at the Osoyoos home of Jerry McKay and Nancy Fath. (Richard McGuire photo)

Last June, Paul McCavour installed 24 solar panels at his Osoyoos house in order to help reduce his electricity bills. Now he’s trying to convert his neighbours to solar energy.

When a couple neighbours in the Osoyoos Golf Club area got panels installed on their tile rooftops last month, McCavour was there to help hand up the panels and to preach to curious passersby.

McCavour installed his own panels on frames, but Swiss Solar Tech Ltd. of Summerland, which has been specializing in solar for 30 years, did the more-difficult rooftop installation by his neighbours’.

That company will be holding an open house on Sunday, April 19 from 1 to 4 p.m. at both the homes that have recently gone solar.

Barbara Fischer, at 3623 Sawgrass Drive, installed 24 panels of 250 watts each that will produce 8,232 kWh annually and will cover about half of her electricity consumption.

Jerry McKay and Nancy Fath, at 4203 Pebble Beach Drive, installed 18 panels of 250 watts each that will produce 5,998 kWh annually and cover just over a third of their electricity consumption.

Like McCavour’s system, these are tied to the FortisBC electrical grid.

When the homeowner produces surplus electricity, the meter runs backwards and the excess power is sold back to FortisBC.

When the panels aren’t producing enough electricity to meet the needs of the home, typically in winter, the homeowner buys the additional power required from FortisBC at the regular rate.

When McCavour evangelizes about solar power, he still encounters many people who ask him about storage batteries.

“I said no, that’s 20-years-ago thinking,” said McCavour. “We don’t use batteries. They don’t know because they’ve never checked it out. I think the more people get educated, I’m hoping that FortisBC and BC Hydro are our best advertisement because they keep raising their rates. Sooner or later people are going to say, ‘Hey, there is an alternative here.’”

Roger Huber, who runs Swiss Solar Tech with his wife Susan, said McCavour introduced him to his neighbours. He hopes that other Osoyoos residents get together to go solar.

“It’s always great when we can get a neighbourhood together,” Huber said. “When you have two or three buildings, we can buy in bulk.”

McKay said he met Huber at Fischer’s home and Huber came down and had a look at McKay’s roof also.

“The good thing about the way Roger is installing this is I can install more panels if I choose,” said McKay. “He’s building the system so that there can be add-ons.”

McKay said he decided to switch to solar electricity because “it’s a green thing to do. I have the means to do it. I don’t think it’s going to be a really good return on investment, particularly at my age in my mid-70s, because the payback is pretty difficult when you don’t have any government subsidies. So it’s more of a feel-good thing than it is an investment thing.”

The cost of McKay’s installation is just over $18,000, while his electricity bill is roughly $1,000 per year.

McCavour, however, has a different view on the ability of solar to pay for itself.

His gas bill last year was $1,050, but only $300 of that was for gas and the rest was for added charges.

“So I’m taking the gas out,” said McCavour, adding that he’ll pay a bit more for electricity, but he’ll eliminate his gas bill.

This will bring his payback on the solar down to about nine or 10 years, he said, noting that his electricity bill was around $2,000 a year before installing the panels.

By purchasing an electric car that he can charge with the solar panels, McCavour estimates he can reduce his payback on the solar to six or seven years.

McCavour said he found Swiss Solar Tech after researching installers who are able to install solar panels on different types of roofing.

Huber said his 30 years of experience is from 15 years in Canada and another 15 in Switzerland, where he did international installations.

With three neighbourhood homes now using solar electricity, McCavour has no plans to stop evangelizing for a power source that is available in infinite supply and is free once the panels are paid for.

“I will gladly come to anybody’s roof or anybody’s property and look and offer the knowledge that I have,” said McCavour.

RICHARD McGUIRE

Osoyoos Times

Roger Huber (left) and his son Franco were installing solar panels last week on the home of Jerry McKay and Nancy Fath. The couple were influence by neighbour Paul McCavour who installed panels on his home last year and has become an evangelist for solar energy. (Richard McGuire photo)

Roger Huber (left) and his son Franco were installing solar panels last week on the home of Jerry McKay and Nancy Fath. The couple were influence by neighbour Paul McCavour who installed panels on his home last year and has become an evangelist for solar energy. (Richard McGuire photo)

Roger Huber (left) and his son Franco were installing solar panels last week on the home of Jerry McKay and Nancy Fath. The couple were influence by neighbour Paul McCavour who installed panels on his home last year and has become an evangelist for solar energy. (Richard McGuire photo)

Roger Huber (left) and his son Franco were installing solar panels last week on the home of Jerry McKay and Nancy Fath. The couple were influence by neighbour Paul McCavour who installed panels on his home last year and has become an evangelist for solar energy. (Richard McGuire photo)

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