Environment

Halifax Solar City asking for program extension

40 applications have been approved this year

The Halifax Solar City program could be around for another three years, if regional council approves a committee recommendation.

Solar City is a solar energy financing program in Halifax that started in 2013 and is scheduled to end in May 2019. As part of the program, the municipality pays to install solar technology systems, like solar electric (photovoltaic), solar hot air and solar hot water for applicants. This is repaid through property taxes.

Applicants can also install solar energy systems by dealing with contractors themselves, but they will have to pay the full cost.

On Wednesday, a staff report was presented to the environment and sustainability standing committee recommending a three-year extension of the program. The committee agreed.

“We need to know where we are on this, otherwise it doesn’t matter what we do. It’s like saying there is a hole some place in a boat and I am going to run around looking for it,” Coun. Richard Zurawski said after the meeting.

The report said there are no set goals for extension, but the main focus is to spread awareness about how the environment is affected by fossil fuels.

“We are here to educate and focus on the municipality to go solar,” said Solar City officer Kevin Boutilier.

One person who has seen Solar City’s benefits is Alex MacDonald, climate change specialist with the municipality. MacDonald recently installed a solar system in his home and said he’s more mindful of his energy consumption as a result.

“I know anything I produce that I don’t use; I try to be more conscious of my unnecessary lights that are on in my house and do the right thing,” he said in an interview after the meeting.

So far this year, Boutilier said, 40 new solar system applications have been approved. He credits a new social media campaign.

According to the staff report, between 2015 and 2018, there were 1,979 registrations. Out of those registrations, 216 applications were approved and 160 people executed their participant agreement with Solar City.

At the meeting Coun. Lisa Blackburn raised a question about what made the remaining 76 participants end their agreement.

Boutilier said a 2017 survey done by Solar City found that people were hesitant because of costs.

Under the new plan, costs are lower because the technology has been updated.

The rebate

In June, Nova Scotia announced a four-year rebate for residential solar electric systems.

The rebate is funded federally through the Low Carbon Economy Fund and administered by Efficiency Nova Scotia, through the Solar Homes program. The rebate is $1.00 per watt, up to a maximum of $10,000 or 40 per cent of the installed system cost, before taxes. The $1.00 per watt will also decrease the repayment period from 12 to eight years.