Banff hopes sunny future in store for solar incentive program

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Banff hopes sunny future in store for solar incentive program

Officials with the town of Banff are hoping participation in its solar incentive program will pick up this year after the number of applications dropped drastically in 2016.

Now in its third year, the town's Solar Photovoltaic Incentive Program offers financial incentives for residents to install solar panels.

Coupled with a $36-million provincial solar rebate program announced in February — which covers up to 30 per cent of the cost of installation for homeowners and 25 per cent for businesses and non-profit organizations — Shannon Ripley, manager of environmental services for the town, hopes more people will be motivated to get on board.

"In our program our goal is to support residents or business owners with a seven-year, simple payback on their systems. So that means if the provincial government is kicking in 25 to 30 per cent of the cost of a system, we're still going to retain the same goal of a seven-year payback," she said.

"It means for the same budget, … I anticipate we would be able to support more participants, and I expect there will be more interest given that provincial funding coming through."

Technological advances have also lowered the cost of installation, which can run $10,000 or more for a home. 

Interest was high in the first year, with 47 people applying and 16 being chosen through a lottery. In 2016, however, just 14 applications were received, with seven of those completing installation of solar panels. 

Residents satisfied so far

Francis Hopkins was one of the first to take part in the program, installing solar panels on his Otter Street home in 2015.

He's been satisfied with the results so far.

"It's been successful actually, really successful," said Hopkins. "In the summer time it virtually covers all of our electric bills. And we actually have a bit of excess that we sell back to the grid."

Hopkins was one of the 47 who applied for the program when it started in 2015, then the first of its kind in the country.

Interested waned, however, going into the second year. Just 14 applications were received in 2016. Of those, seven homes ended up seeing panels installed.

"Something that's really interesting to us that people have spoken about is given that now they are tracking both their energy generation and energy consumption, quite a number of people have played around with thinking about phantom power, unplugging appliances when they're not in use and looking at other ways they can reduce on their consumption side. They've been able to become more efficient in their homes, which is an interesting side benefit."

Despite the dip, Ripley said officials are happy with the outcome so far, saying the program produced about 90 kilowatts of solar energy in 2015 and just over 40 kilowatts in 2016, and residents involved are seeing smaller energy bills.

An information session is planned for April 6 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at 101 Bear Street in Banff.