Albertans are hot for solar right now, even with the pandemic pinch

The state of the Alberta economy and the loss of the NDP-era Energy Efficiency Alberta tax credit slowed solar installations, but demand is soaring amid the pandemic.

Businesses see steady increase in residential, business interest

Business has been on the rise for those in the solar installation industry, with higher demand than before the pandemic hit. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

When the first wave of the pandemic hit, solar companies thought it would bring another setback.

The state of the Alberta economy and the loss of the NDP-era Energy Efficiency Alberta tax credit slowed installations — but with energy costs on the rise due to upcoming increases in the federal carbon tax, and solar costs coming down, demand has begun to soar.

"I think a lot of people took their Hawaii money and spent it on things around the home," said Alex Tyndale with Solar YYC.

"We found a lot of people were working from home, and they wanted to either do the windows or the paint, and then solar was on the list as well."

Of course, last March business slowed down, but by May it was on the rise again for those in the solar installation industry — with higher demand than before the pandemic hit.

Alex Tyndale with Solar YYC said that demand for solar has surged for his company during the pandemic. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

"Last year, we probably grew in the order of 40 per cent," said David Kelly with Skyfire Energy. "It looks like this year we're going to grow at least that much, if not more."

With more projects, Kelly said he's had to hire more installers, project managers, marketers — adding that solar has the ability to create a network of jobs in the province.

His company worked through the winter, perched on top of roofs to complete installs, with only a few breaks because of the cold weather.

And it's just getting busier.

Technology making it to the mainstream

Why? He and others said Alberta is a great place for solar, and not just because of the sunny weather, citing:

  • Micro-generation regulation, which allows Albertans to receive credits for the excess electricity they feed to the grid.
  • The Energy Savings for Business grant, which helps companies invest in reducing emissions.
  • The fact that the cost of installing solar has gone down, and over time will be cheaper than electricity, which has been on the rise.

With big name companies like Amazon investing in solar locally, the technology is making it to the mainstream.

Years ago, Tyndale said he'd get client questions like: does solar work, is it a scam? Now, he said the public's understanding and comfort level when it comes to solar panels has gone way up. 

"You see it more often on people's roofs," he said. "And if your neighbour's doing it, you're probably going to feel more comfortable doing it yourself."

The solar boom is here to stay and is not just a pandemic bubble, according to Kai Fahrion, co-founder of Virtuoso.

He said he believes that the industry is moving from the early adopters on to more of a general public — which means there's a lot of potential clients and installs on the horizon.

"I think it's something that's here to stay," he said.

"And we don't see it being being something that will be all of a sudden the downward trend once things hopefully go back to normal."


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