Antigonish Energy Co-op completes first solar panel bulk purchase

Things are heating up for the Antigonish Community Energy Co-op as members have successfully purchased solar panels in bulk to save money on heavy startup costs.

Group looks to cut energy costs in the long run for Nova Scotians

The Antigonish Community Energy Co-op uses a demonstration model to show its members, and prospective members, how solar panels work. (Antigonish Community Energy Co-op/Facebook)

Things are heating up for the Antigonish Community Energy Co-op as members have successfully purchased solar panels in bulk to save money on heavy startup costs.

The president of the co-op, David Morgan, said the plan came together late last year to buy the equipment as a group, and 18 participants now have the panels installed.

"I'm pleased with that number," Morgan said.

There could have been more, he said, but some people opted to wait a year due to more pressing priorities, such as replacing a roof or completing the purchase of a house.

Church and credit union buy in

Fifteen homeowners have bought the solar panels, he said, as have a municipal government, a church and the East Coast Credit Union in New Glasgow. The municipality and the church did not want to be named since they want to make their own announcements.

The upfront cost of purchasing and installing solar panels is extremely high, but buying in bulk has its benefits, said Morgan.

"For a family of using a typical amount of energy, it's roughly the equivalent of buying a fairly expensive car — about $28,000 to $30,000. That represents a saving of a couple of thousand dollars off what it would cost on the open market," he said.

Savings in the long run

Solar panel systems last 25 years or more, and customers will realize savings in the long run since their dependence on Nova Scotia Power will be sharply reduced, Morgan said.

Morgan points out that there is also a charitable component to the co-op. Each solar panel purchase includes a two per cent poverty relief levy.

"Our organization is inspired in part by the Antigonish Movement, which of course was very concerned about issues of poverty and economic justice in Nova Scotia and elsewhere," said Morgan.

So far the co-op has raised $7,500 for the cause, but will supplement that with a GoFundMe campaign.

"Hopefully to raise another $10,000 or so, so we can put a minimal system on a rooftop here in Antigonish and somehow pass on savings on to a worthy organization that's working in poverty relief in the town," he said.

Run by volunteers

Morgan said all members of the Antigonish Community Energy Co-op are volunteers.

The only people who get paid once the panels are bought are the two installers: Brian Rose of Appleseed Energy in West Arichat and Robert MacKean of Nova Sun Power, based in Pictou County.

"It's not an overwhelmingly lucrative business for these guys. They're small business owners. They make small profits," Morgan said.

"But we're hoping as time goes on, as solar becomes more and more affordable, that will change."

With files from Information Morning