In April of 2016 Manitoba Hydro offered a new program to its customers, a Solar Energy Program to be precise. So far there are 110 customers signed up for the program, and roughly twenty of them have already been installed.
"It's a significant component of how we are meeting our future energy needs of the province as our load continues to grow. We also try to manage the load on the demand side, and the solar program is one of the key components of how we are planning on doing that in the future," said VP of customer care and energy conservation Lloyd Kuczek.
He noted this is a pilot program at this time, but it has seen great interest so far. Since the program was offered April 22nd, 110 customers have applied to participate in the program. In addition to that twenty solar installations are now completed. The program was expected to have only thirty customers participate in the first year.
"It puts a smile on my face that's for sure,' said Kuczek. "I didn't expect to see that many people participate early in the game, because the economics are a bit of a challenge. Certainly people are interested in solar all across North America. It's actually good to see those in Manitoba are interested as well. It looks very promising in the future for us as well."
According to Kuczek roughly eight to ten percent of these 110 customers are in the Pembina Valley.
The average solar system being installed under the program is about seven kilowatts, which requires approximately twenty-eight solar panels taking up more than 400 square feet of roof space. This set up will generate about seventy-five percent of the annual electricity used in a typical gas-heated home.
"Certainly during cloudy periods you don't get as much energy produced, but there still is solar energy being produced, but there still is solar energy penetrating through the clouds. It's just not as efficient during cloudy periods," said Kuczek, when asked about how the panels generate energy on a cloudy day. "During periods like that you just have to rely more on the grid or generation resources from Manitoba Hydro to supplement your solar energy."
Approximately half of the customers who have applied for the program are financing the system through Manitoba Hydro's convenient Residential Earth Power Loan program, which provides up to $30,000 for solar photovoltaic panels.