WEATHER ALERT

More solar power for Winnipeg

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St. Vital

The city of Winnipeg’s water, waste, and environment committee recently voted to look at city properties as locations to use solar power. This is a promising step toward creating one megawatt of solar energy by 2026.

I visited Antigua in 2004. My hotel had a long bank of solar panels along one wall. In fact, many homes and businesses in the Caribbean used solar power. I wondered why this was not the case in Winnipeg. After all, Winnipeg is Canada’s third-sunniest city. We receive over 2,300 bright sunny hours per year. Solar energy potential is low in winter but we make up for it the rest of the year.

The availability of other forms of energy is a factor. Most Caribbean islands do not have hydro-electricity. Fossil fuels are expensive. Solar power is ideal for isolated places with no power grid. In contrast, we have low-cost hydro power and an extensive energy grid. Most Manitobans don’t need solar power.

Supplied photo

This five-kilowatt home solar array reduced electricity costs by $475 per year.

The number of Manitobans who want solar power is growing. We know that switching from fossil fuels to solar reduces global warming. Switching from hydro to solar reduces the need for more dams. It might free-up some hydro power to sell to other provinces or states currently burning fossil fuels.

In 2018, Manitoba Hydro offered a $5,000 incentive to buy a solar system. The response was overwhelming. The incentive, plus a discount for paying full price up front, reduced my five-kilowatt system from $15,000 to $7,800.

Will I save money in the long run? That is up to Manitoba Hydro. My system is connected to the grid. I purchase energy from Hydro when my panels do not generate enough. When my panels produce more than I need, Hydro buys the excess energy from me. But Hydro sets both rates. I pay Hydro $0.09324/KWh. It only pays me $0.08196/KWh.

My system generates about 5,000 kilowatt hours/year. In the first full year, I saved $475. I should break even in 16.5 years. The rate for excess energy changes on April 1. I hope Manitoba Hydro will make the buying and selling rates equal. I could break even sooner and the city would have a stronger business case to use solar energy on its properties.

I am content to break even because I know that solar power is good for the environment. I hope that the city will be as well.

Michele Kading

Michele Kading
St. Vital community correspondent

Michele Kading is a community correspondent for St. Vital.

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