The Alberta government is hoping a $5 million investment will help spark growth in renewable energy.

"It's about doing the right thing for our province" said Shannon Phillips, minister of Environment and Parks, at NAIT's Centre for Sustainable Energy Technologies Friday. "It supports new jobs in a greener more diverse economy."

The money will go towards a solar energy initiative program aimed at municipalities and farmers.

Cities and towns will be offered rebates of up to $.75 per watt to a maximum of $300,000 per project. 

It's hoped that will provide incentive for municipalities to install solar on municipal buildings like fire halls and community centres.

As for farmers, the province says they can get a share of the $500,000 for installing solar energy systems.

Dairy farmer John Bocock

Dairy Farmer John Bocock is already using solar power and has plans to add more capacity

John Bocock, a semi-retired dairy farmer who operates just north of St. Albert, said he's pleased with the news although he's already well ahead of the curve.

"In 2010 our breaker started to kick out because our usage was getting to the capacity of our 15-kV (kilovolt) transformer, so I phoned up Fortis, asked them to put in a new breaker.

"They said, 'What you need is a 25-kV transformer', which would have cost me almost a $1000 in extra rental every year.

"The alternative was to put solar panels on my barn roof, so that's the route I took."

Bocock said he's looking at adding more solar capacity, but for him it's about more than saving money.

"The other bigger reason of course is I'm very concerned that as years go by our farm gets drier and drier, fewer and fewer sloughs. So climate change is not a theory for us, it's an actual fact."

Rob Harlan, with the Solar Energy Society of Alberta, expects the program will be popular with farmers. The non-profit organization offers workshops on solar energy tailored to farmers.

"We've actually had 100 farmers show up for a workshop. We've had waiting lists of 50 or 60 people just to get in."

Farmers can expect to see a return on their investment in solar after about 12 to 15 years, Harlan said.

Municipal leaders also welcomed the investment including Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson.

"Solar photovoltaic is expected to play a prominent role in reducing Edmonton's reliance on electricity generated from non-renewable resources," he said.

Ben Thibault with the Pembina Institute called it a great, positive step forward for the province.

"It looks to me like it's probably around seven megawatts of new solar onto the grid so that's pretty significant, a 60 to 70 per cent increase of what's currently installed, and, if that's the case, that's clearly a big splash for the province."

The farm program will begin accepting applications on Monday, the municipal program opens for applications on March 1.