A new initiative aims to sweeten the deal for Nova Scotia homeowners looking to save money on electricity by installing solar panels.
Funding for the SolarHomes program, which will be administered by Efficiency Nova Scotia, comes from the federal government’s commitment of $14 million per year for four years to Nova Scotia from the Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund. The province is putting in $3 million a year for four years to support the fund, and Nova Scotians are contributing more than $15 million a year through residential electricity rates for programs that increase renewable energy use and make homes more energy efficient.
“This program is primarily intended to be a way to enable consumers in Nova Scotia to save money on their energy bills,” said Peter Craig, team lead for solar and smart energy strategy with the provincial Energy Department, during an interview Monday.
“It’s a way to provide more choices in their energy future and a way to provide renewable energy direct to individuals.”
Under the program, homeowners will receive a $1-per-watt rebate, or about 30 per cent of the installation cost of a solar electricity system, according to the province. The average rebate will be about $7,000, and the maximum will be $10,000.
Additionally, a solar electricity system has the potential to save homeowners hundreds of dollars a year on power bills.
Compared with previous solar energy programs that homeowners may have investigated, this one is emphasizing solar electric technology, as opposed to solar thermal systems. Craig said the technologies are each viable, and expert advice should be obtained to determine what’s best for a particular dwelling.
“There’s certainly space for both in Nova Scotia to coexist,” he said.
“The solar water heat, there is definitely a market for that. It’s an established technology and that’s great and we’re supportive of it. Photovoltaic is the up and coming new technology. It’s fallen in cost very dramatically over the last decade and we’re looking to take advantage of that market for the benefit of Nova Scotians and bring more of that technology here over the next number of years.”
Craig said there is a target for the initiative being used by about 2,000 Nova Scotia homes over the four-year period. The program will launch in mid-August, but if anybody goes ahead with an installation before then the rebate is retroactive to Monday as long as the project meets all the criteria.
“We’re hoping that a lot of folks will take this as a signal that the time has arrived to make these kinds of decisions and to take the choice to use renewable energy at home,” he said.
“Solar panels come in about 300-watt increments, and you can put anywhere between one and about 30 of them on your roof inside of this program. How many you can do is quite related to how much roof you have and how much load you have to consume that solar in the building. The best person to talk to about that is your solar installer and Efficiency Nova Scotia.”
Thermo Dynamics in Dartmouth intends to expand its solar manufacturing and installation business to meet anticipated demand created by the program.
“We are going to start manufacturing solar electricity equipment, in addition to our solar thermal operations,” said Paul Sajko, general manager of Thermo Dynamics, in a news release.
“It’s a multimillion-dollar investment that will create dozens of jobs, but now is the right time to go for it.”
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