More incentives for solar power in Alberta

New legislation and new technologies make this solar installer excited

by Timothy Fowler
Ktunaxa Nation in Cranbrook, BC. engaged SkyFire Energy for their solar project.

Ktunaxa Nation in Cranbrook, BC. engaged SkyFire Energy for their solar project. — Photo courtesy of Skyfire

Greg Sauer, vice-president of sales at SkyFire Energy, is hopeful that Alberta’s new PACE legislation will lead to a surge in solar installations. That’s because accessing financing is one of the biggest barriers for such renewable energy upgrades.

Bill 10, An Act to Enable Clean Energy Improvements, was passed June 6, 2018, by the Alberta Legislature. Municipalities can now establish a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program that will make it more affordable for Albertans to upgrade their properties without having to put money down. The cost of the upgrade will be recovered through their property taxes.

California was the first state to implement a PACE program in 2008. Since then Ontario, Nova Scotia and Quebec have adopted PACE legislation.

PACE improvements are available to residential, commercial and agriculture property but would not apply to designated industrial property. Benefits include saving money, reducing emissions, creating green jobs and stimulating local economies.

The PACE legislation allows the cost of an installed system to be spread over a longer duration relative to a conventional loan. A properly designed and installed solar PV system is expected to produce electricity for 30 years or more, resulting in savings in each of the months. The PACE legislation will hopefully drop the annual cost of an installed solar PV system.

SkyFire’s expertise

Solar installers such as SkyFire are waiting with baited breath for more information with respect to the specifics of the PACE program, such as the amount that can be borrowed, the duration of the loan and interest rates. With offices across Western Canada, SkyFire Energy is one of Western Canada’s leading solar photovoltaic contractors.

“We have designed and installed grid-connected and off-grid solar power systems throughout Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon,” said Sauer. “Our experience includes the design and installation of hundreds of residential systems and many of the largest and most complex commercial photovoltaic systems in Western Canada.”

In 17 years of business, the company has completed over 600 projects with over 10 megawatts of installed solar capacity, which included the one-megawatt dual-axis tracker at the SunMine in Kimberley, B.C.

Telus’ rooftop installation optimises land use.

Telus’ rooftop installation optimises land use. — Photo courtesy of Skyfire

Scaling the future of solar

Among the many attributes associated with a solar PV system, one that may be overlooked is the fact that it is relatively scalable.

“Prospective owners can look at a project that will take them all the way to net-zero all at once or choose to move forward with a smaller plans with the ability to expand the system in the future,” Sauer said. “The same can be said for a customer who has a system installed to meet current needs but plans to add future electrical loads such as air conditioning or electric vehicles.”

Electric vehicle (EV) charging systems are a growing portion of SkyFire’s business, with one of the most recent installed at the Mountain Equipment Coop Calgary South. The company is also a certified installer for Tesla Powerwalls.

Banff Fenlands recreation centre is one notable SkyFire Energy solar installation.

Banff Fenlands recreation centre is one notable SkyFire Energy solar installation. — Photo courtesy of Skyfire

“The future is likely to see further integration of home and automobile,” said Sauer. “The Nissan Leaf now comes with the ability to provide bidirectional charging. So while it can draw electricity from the grid (or ideally your solar system) in order to power its batteries—like any other EV—the electricity can also go back the other way.

“This is of particular importance in jurisdictions that have incorporated time of use pricing where electricity costs more to use at peak times (afternoons and evenings) and is cheaper at other times (in the dead of night, for instance). Your car effectively becomes your backup power supply in the case of a grid outage and without having to pay for standalone battery storage.

“Tesla has also given consumers something to get excited about in terms of integrated roofs,” said Sauer. “Assuming that Tesla can prove this system out, the Tesla Solar Roof could be a game changer.”

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