The tape has officially broken across the chest of Dawson Creek, B.C., in the race for who will be Canada’s first Solar City. A non-profit called the Canadian Solar Cities Project has bestowed what it hopes will be the annual award on the northern town of less than 12,000.
In the broader race to the sun, Canada trails considerably. Australia, for instance, already has seven officially designated solar cities, making the most of some obvious advantages.
But the Canadian solar scene is showing real signs of life, and this iteration of solar appears to be based less on good intentions and more on the expected rate of return.
The Canadian Federation of Municipalities has provided a grant of $545,000, as well as a low-interest $5.4 million loan, for Halifax’s Solar City project. On the residential end, solar panels will be installed on 1,000 homes, to the tune of $7,000 per home over a period of 10 years, to be paid by the homeowner through their property taxes. This might seem like a significant outlay until one factors in the estimated $600-$700 per year savings in power costs the panels are expected to deliver. Depending upon rebates and interest rates, the regional council says it expects a ten year payback period.
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Worldwide, advances in technology has meant the cost of implementing solar has plunged, particularly in the past two years.
The units for the Halifax project, supplied by a small Dartmouth company called Thermo Dynamics, consist of two solar panels and a small hot water heater. The city has selected the company as preferred supplier owing to its ability to manufacture locally. “We do the manufacturing right here in Burnside Park,” said Peter Allen, president of Thermo Dynamics. “It’s not like we’re importing the units and reselling them.”
Given the initial outlay, one might think drumming up applicants to the program would be a barrier. But the city has allocated 1,000 spaces to the more than 1,600 applicants.
The city of Halifax will begin holding open houses to explain the project to residents later this month.