Manitoba

Manitoba Hydro solar energy program will stabilize power costs, homeowner says

A Manitoba man who lives off the grid says homeowners could use solar power to stabilize their electricity costs but likely won't make enough energy to sell any back to Manitoba Hydro.

'You can say, "Well I know how much I'm paying for my hydro, because I make it myself"'

Bev and Will Eert stand beside their solar array at their home about 40 kilometres southwest of Portage la Prairie, Man. (Marcy Markusa/CBC Manitoba)

A Manitoba man who lives off the grid says homeowners could use solar power to stabilize their electricity costs but likely won't make enough energy to sell any back to Manitoba Hydro.

The provincial power utility launched the Power Smart Solar Energy Program on Friday. It allows home and business owners to generate their own electricity with solar panels and sell excess energy back to the utility.

"I feel it should have been done sooner, but I'm just happy that Manitoba Hydro is doing it at all," said Will Eert, who runs a solar system with his wife, Bev Eert, to power their home near Portage la Prairie. "There's really nothing greener that people can do except put solar panels on their house and create their own electricity."

The electricity in the Eerts' home is stored in a series of large batteries until they need it. When fully charged, the batteries can provide electricity for several days, Eert said. 

Eert said homeowners using a system tied to the power grid likely won't generate more electricity than they use. During the day, the Eerts use little to no electricity, and during that time, their solar panels store power. At night, they use that stored power, and the panels don't soak in any sunlight.

There's no net power gain, so homeowners tied to the power grid won't be earning money from Manitoba Hydro, he said.

"Basically, during the day you sell to the grid, and you buy from the grid at night," he said.

Will and Bev Eert give CBC News a tour of the solar-powered house they are building near Portage la Prairie, Man. 1:23

"The goal at the end of the year might be what's called net zero energy — you would have made as much as you used."

Eert said the main benefits of Manitoba Hydro's solar energy program are that homeowners can stabilize what they pay for electricity, and it's a green initiative.

"You can say, 'Well I know how much I'm paying for my hydro, because I make it myself,'" he said. "I'm very enthusiastic."