Iqaluit homeowner installs solar panels, pays cents on his energy bill

Solar panels on Bert Rose's house in Iqaluit. The homeowner paid no more than a few cents for power all summer.  (Jackie McKay/CBC - image credit)
Solar panels on Bert Rose's house in Iqaluit. The homeowner paid no more than a few cents for power all summer. (Jackie McKay/CBC - image credit)

A couple in Iqaluit hasn't paid more than a couple cents for their power bill all summer.

Bert Rose installed 10 solar panels on his house in Iqaluit. Before the installation, he says his bill was about $200 a month, but now it's free.

"May, the bill was one cent. June, the bill was two cents. July, the bill was one cent," said Rose.

In June during the summer solstice, Iqaluit gets nearly 21 hours of light. During these bright summer months, Rose's solar panels produce more energy than his house actually needs.

That extra energy is going back into Qulliq Energy Corporation's power grid through its net metering system, which banks the extra energy as a credit on Rose's account.

David Gunn/CBC
David Gunn/CBC

"Come November and December, when we're down [to] five or six hours of sunlight and the panels aren't getting electrified quite as well as they are now, we'll be able to draw those credits out of the bank," said Rose.

This reduces the cost of Rose's bill during the winter.

"Anything that reduces our bill means it's money in our bank accounts at the end of the month," said Rose.

Cutting back on diesel fuel

Rose's solar panels aren't just saving him money, they're actually reducing the amount of diesel burned to power the city.

"Every community burns a lot of diesel in order to supply electricity," said Bill Nippard, director of operations for Qulliq Energy Corp. (QEC). "So anything we can do to offset our diesel consumption is a good thing for the environment."

Nippard says every 3.73 kilowatt hours produced from solar energy saves QEC about one litre of diesel.

Iqaluit burns about 16 million litres of diesel a year to produce electricity. That's enough diesel to fill more than six Olympic swimming pools.

Jackie McKay/CBC
Jackie McKay/CBC

Nippard says there are currently 16 houses across Nunavut with solar panels.

But QEC isn't about to get into the business of renewable energy, even though QEC is building a hybrid solar-diesel energy plant in Kugluktuk, Nunavut.

"Our ratepayers pay the highest rates in North America," said Nippard. "So for us to undertake a massive capital program to create renewable energy projects is not in our future."

Instead QEC is encouraging third-parties, such as Inuit organizations, to develop renewable energy systems to sell power to QEC, through their Independent Power Producer Program.

Grants available

The solar panels on Rose's house cost about $26,000 with installation. But the Nunavut Housing Corporation is trying to make solar more accessible for homeowners by offering a non-repayable grant.

The housing corporation will cover up to 50 per cent of project costs up to $30,000 for homeowners to get a setup like Rose's.

Rose says he received a $12,000 grant from the Government of Nunavut to install his system.

But Rose says his goal wasn't just to reduce his monthly power bill — it's to cut down on his environmental footprint.

"That's what we've got to do today to try and make sure that there's something for our grandchildren and our great grandchildren," said Rose. "We've got to start now so that they'll have a good life."