Does Victoria Receive Enough Sun for Solar?

It is common misconception that British Columbia does not receive enough sunlight for solar PV systems to be effective. Germany is the leading country for installed solar capacity, yet Victoria has 30% higher solar potential. Direct, uninterrupted sunlight is not necessary for a PV system to work well.

How does solar PV work?

Solar energy is created when sunlight hits the solar panels. The panels covert the sun’s energy into a DC current, which then goes through to an inverter. The inverter converts the DC into AC, which can then be used to power your home.

How much power does the average home use?

According to BC Hydro, “households average about 900kW a month”. This number can be misleading; it does not reflect the increase in power over the winter months. During the winter, electric bills can be “five to six times higher than in the summer months”.

Will Solar add value to my home?

US Department of Energy studies have shown home buyers are willing to pay a premium for homes fitted with PV systems. It was found adding solar to a home added a 3-4% increase in sale price simply by having an average-sized system installed. In the US, this translated to an additional $4/watt of solar power.

I live in a condo building, can I still implement solar?

Most condo buildings that install solar energy generation utilize it as a way to offset grid power to common load areas, such as hallway and lobby lights, or such instances as heating a hot tub or pool. In 2015, the City of Victoria saw Central Park Condominium implement 60-solar panels to offset over a third of their annual energy bills for their common areas.


How do I use the rooftop tool?

To get started, use the map tool or its embedded address search to find a rooftop of interest. Click on the rooftop to select it. A report will be generated that describes the amount of sunshine (irradiance) the rooftop receives over the course of a year. A default 1kW solar photovoltaic (PV) is automatically selected for the rooftop and details of the system's power generation potential and cost are provided (see "How should the tool be used"). The building type can be customized using the drop-down list (different building types have different billing rates). The sliders let you further customize the solar system to your needs. Protip, the tool always chooses the sunniest parts of your roof for the solar system. When you are zoomed in closely a black boundary line shows the chosen area(s). To update your selection click the “Update” button. To print results, click the print icon button. Output can be directed to a PDF if a suitable print driver is installed. Note: if no rooftop is selected, you will be prompted to make a selection.

The tool finds my address, why don't I see my roof?

While the address search can identify addresses across Greater Victoria, the tool only maps buildings inside the City of Victoria municipal boundary. If your building is in Victoria, but there is no solar information, then it is likely a new building, that post-dates our data (2013). We look forward to adding these buildings when new data is available.

My roof is flat, does that make a difference?

It can, on flat roofs, panels would typically be elevated to better catch the sun's rays. They would also be spaced to reduce shading each other. The tool assumes panels are laid flat on the roof for its calculations.

What difference does selecting a different building type make?

Utility rates impact the economic value of investment in rooftop solar. BC Hydro and FortisBC rates vary on a number of factors, including the type of consumption, e.g. residential vs. commercial. The tool will estimate utility rates based on the building's registered use, but gives you the option to adjust. For Single Family Dwellings and Duplex options, BC Hydro and FortisBC's residential rates are used. For Multi-Family Dwellings and Commercial buildings, BC Hydro's Small General Service rate and FortisBC's Small Commercial Service rates are used. For Industrial and Institutional buildings, BC Hydro's Small General Service rate and FortisBC's Large Commercial Service rates are used.

Does the tool take into account future increases in utility rates?

Yes, where future rates have been published, e.g. BC Hydro's 10 Year Rates Plan, the tool incorporates those into its cost calculations, otherwise it assumes 2% rate increases annually.

How was this tool created?

Using a process called LiDAR, a digital model was created that describes the area, slope and shading of each roof in the city (as of 2013). Within the model, the amount of sunlight that shone on each portion of the roof was measured over a year. Using information from a series of weather stations, the model was adjusted using actual sunlight values (for both sunny and cloudy days) to better identify the total quantity of sunlight. This work was done as part of a UVic Master’s thesis by Chris Krasowski and supported by funding from NSERC and the City of Victoria Climate Action Reserve Fund.

The second phase of the project uses the rooftop sunlight energy information, as well as current information on the cost of solar equipment energy prices from FortisBC and BC Hydro, to estimate the quantity and value of electricity that might be generated from the rooftop. This work was performed by Amir Shoolestani, a PhD candidate at UBC and financially supported by BC Hydro through the UBC Sustainability Scholars program and by the City of Victoria’s Climate Action Reserve Fund.

How should the tool be used?

The tool is for education and engagement. While great effort has been made to provide useful and accurate information, it comes with no guarantees of accuracy. Before embarking on a solar project, it is recommended that you work with a qualified professional installer to gain a better sense of the investment required and the potential returns. A list of installers (not comprehensive) can be found here: PV Installers.

What are the technical details of the systems modelled by the tool?

The nominal PV panel used for the calculations is a generic monocrystalline panel with an output of 340W and area of 1.8m2, degradation rate of 0.5%, system losses of 13%, a basic cost of $2,500 plus panel cost of $750/panel. System component warranties are typically 25 years for solar panels and 10 years for inverters, the lifetime can be much longer. The tool estimates panel lifetime at 40 years and an inverter lifetime of 25 years.

Is battery power storage factored into the costs?

No, in BC battery back-up for solar can be considered optional. Please see the overview of Net Metering in the Financing section for more information.

Why is there no solar hot water option?

The tool originally did include a solar hot water calculator, but these systems are less commonly installed today. The rapid decrease in the price of PV panels has made solar hot water systems a less desirable choice. In most situations, PV panels used to power an electric hot water tank, or a heat pump, can generate hot water more economically on an annual basis than a solar hot water system.

Why can't I select part of a roof?

The tool always selects the sunniest area of the roof for its calculations. A future version may allow the user to pick their preferred location. Where buildings occupy the same parcel and are connected, e.g. a duplex, the tool treats those buildings as a single rooftop.

Is this a mistake?

If you have found an error or simply have a question, please email

Are updates planned?

As technology and utility costs change, these will be incorporated into the solar calculator. Similarly, incentive schemes applicable to Victoria will also be incorporated into the site. If you have ideas for site improvements please email


This is great, any reason why I shouldn't get started with an install?

Perhaps not, but note the caveat on site use and limitations under "How should the tool be used". Further research and consultation is recommended to have all the information you need at hand, for example, if the building's roof has aged shingles, it may be prudent to have them replaced before installing a solar system.

Will I need an electrical permit?

Yes you will. This City of Victoria currently requires an electrical permit when installing your PV system This is something your installer can assist you in as part of the connection process.

Learn more, talk to an expert?

There are resources across the community that can assist you in deciding if solar is right for you. Installers can provide assessments and also put you in touch with previous customers to learn of their experiences. Non-Profit organizations such as the BC Sustainable Energy Association can connect you with a community of PV experts and enthusiasts.