Solar panels

A solar panel array installed in Summerside (Solar Island Electric)

A new P.E.I. business wants to make solar panels affordable for Islanders, and is looking for Islanders to invest in the business.

'Islanders investing in businesses that will have tangible benefits for Islanders.' - Steve Howard

The panels are estimated to cost $13,200 each to purchase. Solar Island Electric is proposing to lease the panels for $1,200 a year.

Before it can do that, company founder Steve Howard told CBC News he has to raise at least $105,000 to cover capital costs.

"The largest barrier to the roll-out of solar electric systems on Prince Edward Island is the up-front cost," said Howard.

The company must raise that money by the end of March.

"We plan to raise the capital through the Community Economic Development Business mechanism that the province has in place now," said Howard.

"That's the whole basis of the Community Economic Development Business, is Islanders investing in businesses that will have tangible benefits for Islanders."

The CEDB program offers a 35 per cent P.E.I. tax credit and is RRSP eligible. Howard believes that combination will easily attract enough investors to hit the minimum $105,000 for the company to proceed. The company is prepared to accept up to $3 million in investments.

Howard estimates with good positioning and sun, an array could generate about 9,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year. At $1,200 a year, that would not make sense for residential electricity customers, he said. Howard said the panels make the most economic sense for small businesses and municipalities, because they pay the most expensive electricity rates. At current general service rates from Maritime Electric, a $1,200 panel producing 9,000 kilowatt-hours would roughly break even.

Funds approach first anniversary

The province launched Community Economic Development Business Funds last March, and there is currently only one other operating.

A venture by the Royal Investment Cooperative, an arm of Royal Star Foods in Tignish, launched on Jan. 6, is raising capital for improvements to the fishing co-op, including expanding its lobster holding facility.

The first CEDB, FarmWorks was meant to create a pool of money for new agricultural start-up businesses on the Island. It failed before it started.

In an email to CBC News, FarmWorks general manager Phil Ferraro said "FarmWorks didn't pan out," and that the board didn't have any further to say.