EDMONTON – The Alberta government says it will provide more than $5 million to help municipalities cover the cost of installing solar panels.
The money is to defray the cost of setting up solar power in buildings such as offices, fire halls and community centres.
The Alberta Municipal Solar Program will provide rebates of up to 75 cents per watt, to a maximum of $300,000 per project. It opens for applications on March 1.
A similar program is to be offered to farmers. On-Farm solar Management will provide $500,000 in provincial and federal funding towards solar energy systems on Alberta farms. The application window for this program starts Feb. 8.
“Since 2010, our farm has been producing electricity as well as food,” John Bocock, a Sturgeon County dairy farmer, said. “We installed 24 solar panels on our barn roof. Both we and our installer were pleasantly surprised at how hassle-free it was to get our regular meter replaced with a two-way meter so that we get credit when we produce more power than we are using,” Bocock said.
“Solar energy mitigates climate change and diversifies Alberta’s economy.”
Environment Minister Shannon Phillips says the money builds on programs that have reduced the province’s greenhouse gas emissions by about 500 tonnes a year.
“We must take action at all levels in combating climate change – federally, provincially and locally,” she said. “This investment will spur economic growth and help with the transition to cleaner sources of electricity, which will protect our health.”
Alberta’s agriculture minister said the solar installation program will make farming more efficient.
“Agricultural producers embrace innovation and are good stewards of the land,” Oneil Carlier said.
“The solar installation program will help increase farming efficiencies, reduce power bills and greenhouse gas emissions and add to Alberta’s power grid.”
Greenpeace Canada welcomed the announcement but said it would like to see the policy expanded.
“We are glad to see the Alberta government is starting to embrace the tremendous potential the province has in order to lead in solar energy development,” climate and energy campaigner Mike Hudema said.
“This policy will not only start to diversify Alberta’s economy, it will create jobs in the process.
“While we are supportive of the announcement, we will continue to push the government to expand this policy to ensure every Albertan is able to benefit. 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,” Hudema said. “‘Solar for all’ should be the government’s new mantra.”
With files from The Canadian Press