Nova Scotia

Solar City program delayed again in Halifax

A program designed to help homeowners install solar panels is facing an uncertain future because the Halifax Regional Municipality has so far been unable to secure financing, CBC News has learned.

Halifax Regional Municipality unable to secure funding

The Solar City program would allow homeowners to pay off their panels over several years. (CBC)

A program designed to help homeowners install solar panels is facing an uncertain future because the Halifax Regional Municipality has so far been unable to secure financing, CBC News has learned.

The municipality had billed Solar City as an innovative way to support renewable energy by allowing qualified homeowners to purchase solar panels and pay for them over time on their property taxes.

In January, the Halifax Regional Municipality applied for $6 million in funding from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' Green Municipal Fund, but was told the project did not meet the necessary guidelines.

Richard MacLellan, the manager of the city's Sustainable Environment Management Office, told CBC News the Halifax Regional Municipality had since revamped the application several times to get the loan from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

"It is a complex and unique project. While challenging, it is not uncommon for applications to FCM to take some time. While the FCM offering is desired, whether it is essential or not will be a decision of regional council," MacLellan wrote in an email.

"Staff hopes there is some way we can qualify for the funding. There is high public and industry interest in the offering."

MacLellan said the $6-million application includes a $5-million loan and a $1-million grant.

"The low interest financing would be the means to enable the offering of the program, and the grant would pay for the HRM administration and project management costs required to mitigate risk from the municipality and properly manage the program," he wrote.

Under Solar City, qualified homeowners could install one or two solar hot water panels on their properties. It would cost between $6,000 and $8,000, but they could pay yearly instalments of $400 through their taxes and pay it all off in five to 10 years.

High interest

Between 500 and 700 homes were expected to take part in the pilot project, but the program was so popular that the municipality had to stop taking applications after receiving more than 1,600.

Solar City was supposed to begin in the fall of 2011.

Paul Sajko, the general manager of Thermo Dynamics Ltd. in Dartmouth, said the latest delay is disappointing. (CBC)

MacLellan said now, staff are preparing a report for next month's regional council meeting to update councillors on what's happening and seek direction.

Businesses that sell solar are waiting, too.

Paul Sajko, the general manager of Thermo Dynamics Ltd. in Dartmouth, said the latest delay is surprising and disappointing.

"The downside is that the program was announced and some people were waiting to see what's going to be the outcome of the program and they may be hesitating to purchase directly from us, waiting to see the outcome of the program," he told CBC News on Thursday.

"It may delay a sale or it may give a customer enough time to rethink if they're even going to do it."

Sajko said the delays mean solar panels cannot be installed at the optimal time of year, in the spring and summer.

"Industry has shown quite a bit of interest in this as well," he said. "Obviously, it would be great for sales so it would be a shame to come this far and not be able to implement such a program."

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