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Seeing the light

Conservation-minded Manitobans sign up for Hydro's solar-energy program

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/6/2016 (1386 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

More Manitobans than expected are plugging into Manitoba Hydro’s new solar-energy incentives in a bid to harness the power of the sun and reduce energy costs.

"We were expecting 50 installations over the next year, and we got 21 applications in the first month," Manitoba Hydro spokesman Scott Powell said. "We received over 300 inquiries from interested Manitobans, as well."

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Tyson Beasley and April Fields, with their son, Andrew, and daughter, Abigail, will charge their Volt electric cars using power from the solar-energy system on their garage.</p></p>

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Tyson Beasley and April Fields, with their son, Andrew, and daughter, Abigail, will charge their Volt electric cars using power from the solar-energy system on their garage.

Powell said most applicants have been urban and rural homeowners.

He said Manitoba Hydro has money set aside if the number of applications exceeds 50.

"We’re always hoping for a better response than we had planned, and if that’s the case, we’re more than happy to see that. It’s a good thing."

The co-owner of one local solar-energy provider — Sycamore Energy — said he’s not surprised by the strong response.

"Everybody in the industry (who attended the April 22 program launch) was shaking their heads and going, ‘You’re totally off your rocker. You’re going to see way more uptake than what you’re expecting,’" Alex Stewart said.

"I think single-handedly we might do better than that (50 installations). There’s a pent-up demand."

Stewart said so far, customers taking advantage of the incentives are people who believe in solar power and other types of renewable energy, see it as a good long-term investment and were just waiting for it to become more affordable. Now, with the help of the new Hydro incentives, they’re taking the plunge.

Tyson Beasley and his girlfriend, April Fields, fall into that category. Both drive hybrid-electric cars, and they’ve been using solar-powered floodlights to light their yard.

Beasley said he has wanted to install a solar-energy system for about 10 years but couldn’t afford it. Now, thanks to a $7,425 rebate and a $14,000 loan from Hydro, they can afford to have Sycamore install a 7.5-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system.

He said their system is expected to generate an average of about $80 worth of solar energy per month, which will reduce their monthly Manitoba Hydro bill by the same amount.

Although it’s a 15-year loan, he said they hope to have it paid off in nine or 10 years.

"So I can’t thank Hydro enough for putting that rebate out there, because it sure made it (buying a solar-energy system) more attainable," he said.

The program is part of Manitoba Hydro’s Power Smart initiative, which is aimed at reducing energy consumption and freeing up power for export.

Powell said solar PV systems of anywhere from 2.9 kilowatts (2,900 watts) to 30 kilowatts (30,000 watts) are eligible for the rebate. He said a typical system for a home would produce about five kilowatts (5,000 watts) of solar energy. The estimated cost of purchasing and installing such a system is from $16,000 to $20,000, and it should enable the homeowner to save about 65 per cent, or $510, on their annual hydro bill.

Stewart said Sycamore’s customers have chosen systems that generate between six kilowatts (6,000 watts) and 10 kilowatts (10,000 watts) of power. For competitive reasons, he wouldn’t reveal how many new customers the company has landed since the incentive program was launched.

"In terms of how it’s going to affect the industry, I will say that our business (before) this was 20 per cent in the province and 80 per cent out of the province, and that ratio is now reversed," he added.

The president of another local provider — Solar Solutions Inc. — said his company has seen an increase in business since the incentives program was unveiled. He declined to give specific figures.

"It’s made a difference. There is a fair amount of interest, for sure," Tim Yusishen said. "For people that were kind of sitting on the edge, this now gives them a little nudge to move forward. Even I am doing it (going solar) in a larger way myself."

Stewart said there are four main providers operating in the province — Sycamore, Solar Solutions, EvolveGreen.Ca and Stellar Earth Energy.

He expects that number to grow as new providers enter the market because of the new incentive program.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

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History

Updated on Friday, June 17, 2016 at 6:56 AM CDT: Adds photo

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