May 27th, 2018

Guest Column: Stretching dollars withsolar technology in Alberta

By Medicine Hat News Opinon on April 8, 2017.

You could be forgiven for comparing Alberta municipalities’ efforts to stretch a dollar to ancient alchemists’ quest for gold. Both involve a little magic, at least metaphorically.

One tool the alchemists didn’t have was solar technology. While it won’t make gold, solar does generate electricity. And that means money.

Municipalities across the province are harnessing the power of the sun to produce safe, clean energy for their communities. It’s helping them stabilize their power bills and saving them money so they can spend on the services Albertans count on.

To support those efforts to make life better and more affordable, last year the provincial government kicked off the Alberta Municipal Solar Program. With $5-million in rebates available to municipalities that install solar panels on offices, fire halls and community centres, the program has already offset installation costs for 28 projects, saving Alberta’s towns and counties hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s making life more affordable for Albertan families and communities.

Take the county of Mountain View, in the rolling farm country near Didsbury. They’ve installed an array of solar panels on their Agricultural Services Centre that will shave almost $1,000 from their annual electricity bill. Using the sun is nothing new for Alberta’s farming communities, says Mountain View Reeve Bruce Beattie.

“We use that resource to produce our safe, clean food products,” he says. “It is a logical step to use that same source to produce safe, clean energy. In a carbon-constrained future, those economies that have invested in renewable energy will reap the benefits.”

In keeping with Alberta’s role as an energy-producing jurisdiction, solar is part of our province’s low-carbon future. It’s a future that involves a more diversified economy and good mortgage-paying jobs for Albertans. Premier Rachel Notley will keep working to make your life better, creating jobs and protecting the things you count on. The Wildrose and Conservatives don’t support action to diversify our economy and would roll back programs like the municipal solar rebates.

Projects funded by the Municipal Solar Program over the past year will support 60 jobs and save municipalities a combined $391,600 on power bills annually. Those projects are also making our air cleaner — to the tune of taking the equivalent of almost 14,000 cars off the road for one year!

In addition to Mountain View County, communities across the province have made investments in solar power helped by these rebates. Valleyview, Black Diamond and Canmore are among those with connected solar panels, saving them money already, while Cardston, Edson and Banff have projects under construction. You can find more details about all these projects on the MCCAC’s Project Showcase webpage.

This is just the beginning of the solar surge in Alberta, and there is much to be learned from inspiring communities that recognize that Alberta’s solar resources are among the best in Canada and that we can, and should, harness them.

We are proud of these results and look forward to many more successes as we continue to collaborate with communities across the province to make life better for Albertans. Your government is protecting and improving the things that make a difference in your life.

Shannon Phillips is Minister of Alberta Environment and Climate Change.

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