Solar panels are popping up all over Banff, thanks to an incentive program that pays residents for extra electricity. 

The Solar Photovoltaic Incentive Program is the first of its kind in Canada. It requires residents to install their own solar panels, and if more power than needed is produced, it goes into the public power grid and the town buys it. 

Chad Townsend

Banff's environmental co-ordinator Chad Townsend says the mountain town gets a lot of sun. (Andrew Brown/CBC)

"We're sending out cheques on a quarterly basis based on how much your system is producing," said environmental co-ordinator Chad Townsend. 

Sixteen of the 47 applications for the program were approved in 2015, and a lottery system will determine who will be approved next year. The program is available for homes and businesses. 

Banff has been generating solar power for several years. The first installation was on the Community High School in 2009. Since then, panels have appeared on the Town Hall and public washrooms. 

By the end of 2015, 22 buildings will have solar panels. 

"Banff is one of the sunnier places in the province of Alberta but we haven't really tapped into that until now," Townsend said.

He wants Banff to be a leader for the rest of Canada. 

"There's no good reason why we can't be. We do get cold days, but they're usually sunny as well," Townsend said. "And solar is not influenced by temperature, it's just really that solar exposure. If we filled every roof in town, we'd pretty much power the town."

Banff panel

Solar panels provide some of the electricity to this public washroom in Banff. (CBC)

Installations underway

Brigitte and Francis Hopkins are getting their Banff home outfitted with solar panels. 

"In the long run we hope to save money in a way that's environmentally sensitive," Francis Hopkins said. 

Hopkins paid around $14,000 to install the panels. He says it will take seven years to get the investment back.

"It should generate a reasonable amount of the customer's electricity. Especially through the summer months," said Parker Christensen, a solar installer for SkyFire Energy Systems.

Banff solar instalation

Solar panels are being installed on homes in Banff. (CBC)

Growing business

Christensen says it's a busy time for for solar installations. He has other jobs lined up in Alberta, British Columbia, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

"It's always different. One day you'll be doing 12 panels on a roof, and the next day you'll be doing 7,000 panels in a farmers field," he said.