Nova Scotia buildings to feed solar power to grid under new program
Nova Scotia currently gets less than 1% of its power from solar energy
Nova Scotia, a province often perceived as rainy and windswept, is testing its potential for solar energy generation.
Peter Craig, a provincial Energy Department official who helped unveil a plan Friday that will see 18 applicants generate electricity for local grids, said Nova Scotia is sunnier than its reputation would suggest.
He drew a contrast with Germany.
"We actually have more sun due to our lower latitude than what Germany does, and they have a world leading amount of solar installed," he said.
Under the program, announced as part of the government's electricity plan in 2015, universities, municipalities, non-profits, charities and Mi'kmaq communities will sell power to local grids.
They will set a price as a way to cover the cost of installing solar panels. The impact on electrical ratepayers is capped at 0.1 per cent.
Nova Scotia solar industry undeveloped
Craig said the goal of the two-year pilot project is to learn more about the production capacity for solar energy in a province that currently gets less than one per cent of its power from solar.
"There's no technical, scientific problem with having solar in place," he said.
"It's really a matter of having the industry built up to be able to accommodate it, having our grid prepared and ready to accept it and having people interested and prepared to build it."
Among the 18 applicants chosen to participate in the program is Halifax's Atlantic School of Theology, which has signed a 20-year-deal to sell its solar power.
Up to 50 kilowatts of electricity will be generated by 150 solar panels on the roof of the university's library.
Promising financial returns
Dave Angot of Doctor Solar, the company installing the 330-watt panels, said the project could net the school revenue of at least $10,000 annually.
"Many of the community groups that have participated will have a similar return," he said.
The company estimates the school's installation will cost just over $142,000, and it is expected to generate 54,422 kilowatt hours of electricity per year.
Angot said solar development is an exciting prospect, but it comes with challenges for companies who need to keep up with technological change.
"Every quarter, we have improvements in the production capabilities of the panels. Therefore, we have to make sure that we are current," said Angot.
Variety of applicants
Among the other successful program applicants announced Friday:
- The Town of Antigonish (up to 50 kilowatts).
- St. Francis Xavier University (18 kilowatts).
- Glooscap First Nation (up to 22 kilowatts).
Cape Breton University and Tugliq Energy Co. were approved to generate up to 150 kilowatts on various buildings at the university.
Other projects in Halifax will be operated by the Hospice Society of Greater Halifax, the Ecology Action Centre, Dalhousie University and the Nova Scotia Community College's Ivany campus.
Following the lead of other provinces
Theology school president Neale Bennet said reducing the province's carbon footprint fits well with his school's ethos.
"What we stand for and what our students are interested in is advancing to a better world. Sustainability is a crucial aspect of the kind of world we want to build," he said.
Bennet said the school would be selling its electricity to Nova Scotia Power, effectively offsetting the power it uses in return.
The solar panels would be paid off over a 10-year period.
Craig said Nova Scotia is following the lead of provinces such as Ontario, which installed solar capacity through its former micro-fit program.
He said Alberta is also offering a number of solar programs intended for residences, farms and municipalities.