Alberta offers rebates for solar panel installation

EDMONTON -- The Alberta government is adding another plank to its climate-change platform by providing more than $5.5 million to help farms and municipalities install solar panels.

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"This is just the beginning," Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said Friday.

"By investing now in proven programs we will be better prepared to ramp up our efforts as the price on carbon pollution is phased in."

The money is being offered to defray the cost of setting up solar power in buildings such as offices, fire halls and community centres.

A similar program worth $500,000 will be offered to farmers.

The rebates extend a program already offered by the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre. That program has so far helped six Edmonton community leagues install solar panels and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 55 tonnes every year.

The agricultural solar program builds on a pilot that saw 61 projects reduce greenhouse gases by more than 360 tonnes and add almost 500 kW of capacity to Alberta's electricity grid.

The new money is expected to fund about 160 projects and reduce carbon emissions by up to 8,400 tonnes over the next 25 years.

Phillips noted that an earlier $2 million solar-power grant for municipalities was immediately taken up.

"There's a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and uptake for these kinds of programs," she said. "It's very likely that this will not meet all the demand, but it is a way for us to begin ramping up those efforts."

The program offers rebates of up to 75 cents per watt. Figures from a provincial report would suggest that's not quite enough to make the cost of solar power equal to that purchased from the grid.

"It's intended to provide an incentive," said Phillips. "It may not equalize, but it's intended to remove the barriers."

Lisa Holmes, president of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, welcomed the money.

"Today's announcement of funding for solar energy will enable Alberta's municipalities to demonstrate environmental stewardship at the local level for reducing energy consumption and even putting energy back into the grid," she said.

Greenpeace spokesman Mike Hudema said the program is good news, but should be broader.

"Every community, co-op, farm and First Nation/Metis community should be able to participate in bringing solar energy to the province -- not just the big players," he said in a statement. "'Solar for all' should be the government's new mantra."

Farmers will be able to apply for the rebates starting Monday, while municipalities have to wait until March.



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