Alberta’s electricity grid still relies heavily on coal and coke, but that is going to change at a quick pace in the years ahead. The Climate Energy Plan proposed in 2015 by the Government of Alberta brought major changes to the province’s energy forecast, including a carbon tax and an ambitious coal-reduction plan. By 2030, one-third of Alberta’s coal generating capacity will be replaced by renewable energy sources — and solar energy is going to be part of this revolution.
Solar power is having one of its best moments yet, and there is seemingly no looking back. According to the Energy Transition Outlook 2018 report by DNV GL, the global solar energy industry could grow by 6,500 percent by the year 2050. In Alberta, the predictions seem as promising as the global outlook. The province is home to some of the sunniest cities in Canada, including Calgary and Edmonton, and its solar power industry increased 500 percent from 2015 to 2018.
Although the numbers sound impressive, there are still some unanswered questions regarding solar energy in Alberta. What is the solar energy news for households? What are the main solar power projects in Alberta? What to expect from solar energy in the province? If you want to learn more about it, read the full guide below.
The current solar energy initiatives in Alberta
Of course, every energy source has its pros and cons. Still, it’s quite impressive how the global solar power industry has been overcoming major obstacles such as production costs and above-average electricity rates, which makes it more affordable for both energy providers and consumers, both commercial and residential.
- More affordable solar electricity facilities
If some years ago you were told that solar electricity would be contracted by a lower cost than gas-powered electricity, you’d probably be suspicious. Believe it or not, that happened in February 2019 in Alberta.
Three new solar electricity facilities will be built in southeastern Alberta near Hays, Tilley and Jenner. The facilities are expected to open in 2021, and will power 55 percent of the Government of Alberta’s electricity use in the years ahead.
According to the Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA), the average contract pricing will be 3.6 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), which is less than the average historical wholesale power pool price in the last 10 years. The three new power plants will be built by Canadian Solar with Conklin Métis Local #193.
- Will Calgary build the largest solar energy project in Western Canada?
An Irish energy company called DP Energy is looking to build in the City of Calgary what could be the most massive solar energy project in Western Canada.
The proposed 156-acre project would build 1,576 solar panels arranged in 78 rows and would generate 25 megawatt-hours of renewable electricity annually. In other words, it’s energy enough to power about 4,000 homes.
According to the news by Global News Calgary, if everything turns out right for the DP Energy project, construction could start by the end of 2019.
- The Brooks Project
Although consumers don’t know if the DP Energy project will get approved, Alberta already is home to the largest solar energy project in Western Canada: The Brooks Project. Partly funded by the Government of Alberta, the 17-megawatt solar power facility was built in Newell County near Brooks.
The project includes 50,000 solar panels with the potential to power up to 3,000 homes. The plant is the first utility-scale solar project in Western Canada and uses Mono PERC modules, which are considered to be highly efficient.
- The Suffield project
As part of its plans of reducing emissions in Canada, the federal government has announced a $15.3-million funding for the construction of a solar energy project in Suffield, southeast Alberta. The Suffield Solar Project will generate 23 megawatts of electricity once it starts working.
- The Greengate Power project in Vulcan County
In August 2019, the largest solar energy project in Canada was approved by the Alberta Utilities Commission in Vulcan County, Alberta. The project will have more than 1.5 million solar panels generation approximately 800 million kWh per year, which will be enough to power about 100,000 homes. The construction starts in 2020 and could generate dozens — or even hundreds — of jobs over the next two years.
How governmental incentives work
- Residential and Commercial Solar Program
The Residential and Commercial Solar Program by Energy Efficiency Alberta helps households and companies to cover the cost of investing in solar energy. The incentives range from $13,500 to $1 million depending on the size of your property. Check below the maximum amounts for each type of consumer who wants to install solar photovoltaic systems.
Residential and Commercial Solar Program: Category and maximum payable amount
|Residential||Less than $10,000, or 35 percent of eligible system costs|
|Commercial and institutional||Less than $1 million, or 35 percent of eligible system costs|
|Nonprofit and charities||Less than $1 million, or 35percent of eligible system costs|
- Municipal Climate Change Action Centre
Alongside the Residential and Commercial Solar Program, many municipalities in Alberta allow their residents to combine the Energy Efficiency Alberta program with municipal incentives. For example, The City of Edmonton is currently offering an additional incentive of 15 cents per watt toward the costs related to solar residential systems.
Check below some of the municipalities in Alberta that offer both provincial and municipal solar power incentives:
- Brazeau County
- Town of Canmore
- Medicine Hat
- Town of Banff
According to Energy Efficiency Alberta, the main goal behind the incentives is to cut solar installations costs by 35 percent for residences, businesses and nonprofits, as well as to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the province by about 0.5 tonnes.
What to expect from solar energy in Alberta
Alberta receives more hours of sunshine in the summer than Miami, Florida, according to CanSIA. In other words, this means Alberta has the potential to become one of the leading solar power spots in North America.
By combining governmental incentives with private investments, we can expect a bright (if you pardon the pun) future for solar power in Alberta in the years ahead. Of course, there are some challenges ahead, but the outlook seems quite positive, not only in the province but globally. As reported by Zion Market, the global solar panel market size will reach 57.5 billion U.S. dollars by 2022, and it will grow at a rate of 10.9 percent between 2017 and 2022.