Farmers and rural property owners were enlightened on benefits and opportunities of solar energy during a workshop March 10 in High Prairie.
“It is becoming increasingly profitable for Alberta farmers to generate their own electricity and sell it on the grid, utilizing renewable energy sources that are available right on their property,” says Rob Harlan, executive director of the Solar Energy Society of Alberta.
“Interest in solar in Alberta is pretty strong.”
Generating Energy from the Sun – Opportunities for Alberta Farmers was locally sponsored by Peace Country Beef and Forage Association.
“Once the investment is amortized, the savings can be extraordinary,” Harlan says.
Provincial funding is available through the Growing Forward 2 program to get started.
“We encourage solar energy because it’s a clean and renewable source and it’s a good job generator,” Harlan says.
“All of that is needed now in a down economy.
“Economics of solar power have improved and it’s becoming a decent investment.”
The Alberta government supports solar for economic diversification and is committed to generate 30 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Average farmers usually install a 10-kilowatt system, for about $30,000.
“It’s not uncommon for payback in about 12 years,” Harlan says.
Maintenance costs are low and savings are significant.
Financial benefits are wide and varied and a true economic analysis is quite complicated.
“Site conditions and utility pricing schedules will vary substantially,” Harlan says.
“When utility rates go up, solar system owners smile.”
An ideal site would be located in full solar access, face true south, with minimal soiling, good array of air circulation and clear of snow.
People are advised to consider many reasons and financial factors as they decide whether to choose to install a solar system, but it is important to be clear about those reasons, states an information sheet from Growing Forward 2.
“This helps potential consumers consider their investment with all the facts, manage their expectations related to what their solar project can do for them and ensure they are satisfied with the results of their investment,” the brief states.
“An experienced installer should be able to do a cost-benefit comparison on the position of using a tracking system to help you decide if that is the technology you want to pursue in your system.”
Choosing a fixed tilt angle installation for year-round is still the most common method.
For a year-round average, regardless of geographic location, it is generally accepted that the optimum tilt angle should be equal to the angle of latitude of that particular managing location or within 15-20 degrees of latitude.
For more information, and a list of solar businesses, Harlan urges people to visit the society website at solaralberta.ca.