Solar energy is booming in Manitoba, and the province is working on its own solar energy initiative.
But how will the province pay for it?
In February, the province announced a $1-million solar rebate for people who buy solar panels and other solar-powered devices in the city of Winnipeg.
It will cover the cost of installing solar panels, and a rebate of $250,000 per year for those who have installed solar panels on their homes.
The rebate will be split equally between Manitoba Hydro and the Winnipeg Solar Energy Network.
The Winnipeg Solar Initiative is a pilot program and has yet to receive formal approval from the province, but some industry observers believe it will be a good starting point for a nationwide effort.
“We need to get this right,” says David T. Dutton, the executive director of the Solar Energy Industries Association.
“If you’re going to invest in solar, you should invest in Manitoba.”
Winnipeg is a big solar market, and with a strong manufacturing base, the city has been able to leverage the state’s generous rebate.
“Winnipeggers have seen a phenomenal jump in solar installations over the last three years,” says Paul G. Johnson, a Manitoba University of Technology geoscientist and solar expert.
“There are some fantastic installations in Winnipeg, and it’s been a great success story for the province.”
The province expects to have around 1,200 panels installed by 2020, according to the Manitoba Energy Research Agency.
That’s a lot of solar, but it’s a little less than Winnipeg’s overall solar capacity.
And even if the province does get a lot more solar installations, there will still be more panels installed in Winnipeg than in the entire province.
The province’s solar incentives don’t cover everything.
For example, solar energy isn’t always covered by a rebate, so homeowners can’t use the rebate to cover all their energy costs.
And if solar panels aren’t installed in the same location, the rebate may be more expensive for those that live far from the grid.
Winnie-Oshawa is a solar-power-rich city, with a population of about 7,000 people, which makes it easy to make use of the rebate.
But solar energy is only a fraction of Winnipeg’s energy mix.
“When you talk about Manitoba, you have to look at the whole picture,” says Johnson.
“It’s a big city with a large number of large and small solar-energy providers.”
Wixom Solar Energy, the largest solar-panel installer in the province with more than 200 installations in the Winnipeg area, has its own Solar Rebate Program that is eligible for up to a $50 rebate per home.
The company’s website says the rebate is based on “the average residential usage rate across all solar PV systems.”
“The rebate will provide a solid base of funding for Winnipeg to support the development of the Winnipeg solar energy infrastructure,” Wixum says in a statement.
The provincial government will be paying the bulk of the cost, but Johnson says the company is willing to share in the proceeds if the city can prove it has a solar power market ready to take advantage of the incentives.
“I would be shocked if Winnipeg didn’t have solar in place,” he says.
“The rebate program is very important, but we have a lot to do.”
Solar energy is a good example of a solar market that is growing in Manitoba.
It’s relatively inexpensive and it requires little to no capital investment.
Solar energy, which is a form of renewable energy that can be produced from the sun, can be used to generate electricity, heat homes, and even power transportation.
But it has one big drawback: solar panels are very expensive to install.
Wixoom Solar Energy says it has installed more than 1,000 solar panels since it launched in 2010.
The average cost of a panel is about $1,500, according a company website.
And because solar panels require large amounts of energy to produce, they’re not always profitable.
For many homeowners, the savings they get from using solar panels is more than the cost they pay to install them.
“We have solar energy available in Winnipeg that we can install at a very low cost to the homeowner,” says Dutton.
“But we have to be very careful not to get into a situation where we’re not going to be able to compete with the market in the long run.”
That’s why solar power advocates are so interested in getting the Manitoba government to help them get the rebate program off the ground.
The Manitoba Energy Resources Agency (MERA), a federal agency, has been tasked with coordinating the province’s energy transition.
It is not the agency that will decide if solar energy will be eligible for the rebate, but the province has made clear it wants the rebate approved.
“Our goal is to make sure that the province and the industry have