Canada: Alberta introduces new solar initiative

The Canadian province of Alberta is expanding its solar power initiatives with $5.5 million slated for new programs aimed at helping farms and municipalities install PV systems.

The Alberta government has earmarked $5 million for the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre to finance the Alberta Municipal Solar Program, which will provide rebates to municipalities of up to $0.75 per watt to a maximum of $300,000 per project for installing solar systems on municipal buildings such as offices, fire stations and community centers.

According to a report in the Calgary Herald, Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said the new initiatives were “just the beginning,” adding, “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 new initiative expands an existing program offered through the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, which has already helped six Edmonton community leagues install solar systems and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55 tons a year as a result, the newspaper reported.

Another $500,000 program will assist farmers to install PV systems. The new On-Farm Solar Management program will provide $500,000 in provincial and federal funding towards solar energy systems on Alberta farms. The program will help producers generate their own electricity while reducing carbon emissions. The agricultural solar program expands a pilot initiative that has so far financed 61 projects — which helped reduce greenhouse gases by more than 360 tons — and added nearly 500 kW of capacity to Alberta’s electricity grid, the newspaper added.

The new funding is expected to help finance around 160 projects and reduce carbon emissions by up to 8,400 ton over the next 25 years.

An earlier $2 million grant issued by the government was used up immediately for municipal solar projects, Phillips said, adding that there was “a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and uptake for these kinds of programs.” She pointed out, however, that the new program was unlikely to meet all of the current demand, but was nevertheless a way for the government to ramp up those efforts.

The program offers rebates of up to $0.75 per watt. While it’s not enough to make the cost of solar power equal to that purchased from the grid, Phillips said the program was intended to provide an incentive. “It may not equalize, but it’s intended to remove the barriers.”

Farmers will be able to apply for the rebates as of Monday, while municipalities have to wait until March, according to the paper.

In November, the Alberta government announced sweeping energy and climate goals, including a 30% renewabel energy target by 2030 and the complete phase-out of coal within that time.