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Lethbridge Corn Maze turns to solar energy

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WATCH ABOVE: The Lethbridge Corn Maze is getting greener, Allie Miller reports on how funding from the provincial government is helping small agriculture businesses become more environmentally sustainable – Sep 12, 2016

Theo and Esther Slingerland have owned their farm and corn maze for over 20 years and recently decided to make it even greener by taking advantage of southern Alberta’s sunshine.

“I’ve been looking into solar for years,” said Theo. “I believe that we are responsible for the environment and we were looking to get the price of what we pay in utilities down.”

READ MORE: Alberta offers rebates to municipalities, farms that set up solar power

The couple approached the local solar company Solar Optix and in May, the solar panels were installed on the roof and south side of their barn. Since then, the farm and the two houses on the Slingerland’s property have been completely self sufficient.

“In the summer we had enough to power everything… freezers, fridges, microwaves, fans, and all the things we use on the farm,” said Theo.

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“For years the price was a little out of range. In the last few years the price for solar panels has come down and there is a little bit of funding from the government.”

READ MORE: Massive rooftop solar array south of Edmonton nearly complete

With the help of the provincial government’s Emissions Management Fund and the “Growing Forward 2” program, the Slingerlands were able to install 30 solar panels at 250 watts each.

“We expanded both of those programs this year,” Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said. “It’s great to see that these programs are coming to fruition in Lethbridge.”

READ MORE: Reaction to Alberta’s ‘ambitious’ climate change plan

Theo estimates it will take 15 years for the panels to start paying for themselves.

“You’re going to be paying utilities no matter what,” said Erika Grintals, who works for Solar Optix. “Yes, solar does take some time to pay off, but the investment is worth it if you look at the big picture.”

Supporters believe the expansion of solar energy in Alberta not only allows for a greener future but will also create jobs.

“There is an enormous amount of real estate in southern Alberta that can be generating electricity, jobs and revenue in the community,” Phillips said.

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