Thursday, 31 August 2017 07:00

Swift Current’s net metering program gives households credits for unused solar power

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The City of Swift Current’s net metering program gives an opportunity to residents to benefit from the installation of solar panels at their homes if they use less power than the amount generated by their renewable technology.

Mitch Minken, the City of Swift Current’s general manager of infrastructure and operations, said the net metering program is aimed at residents who have installed solar panels to generate renewable energy for their own use, but who are unable to use all the solar energy generated at a specific time.
“You can hook that up and put some power back into the grid at times when you’re not using all of it,” he explained. “We use a bi-directional meter, so we’re metering both sides: What you’re taking from us and what you’re putting back to us, and that offsets your electricity bill. So if you produce more than you use, then you get credit for that and it goes against from what you would take from us. It’s set up at a yearly cycle and it resets at the end of each year.”
The credits are received each month for electricity sent to the grid and it can be carried over to the following month, when it will be applied against the household’s electricity consumption for that month.
“It’s quite unlikely that you would end up in a position where at the end of the year there would be any credit there,” he said. “You would use your credit up during the year, especially during the winter, because you’re not producing nearly as much with the solar during the winter. The turnaround date is the end of March. So by then you’ve probably used up everything that you’ve produced.”
The City’s net metering program has been in place for about four years. It started when SaskPower launched a similar program in the province.
“We pretty much followed SaskPower’s program, as we typically do with the rates,” he said. “Both the City of Saskatoon and us followed along with SaskPower’s program.”
Only four customers are registered for the City of Swift Current’s net metering program. There has been interest and the City will receive enquiries from time to time, but Minken believes the cost of a solar power installation is a factor that limits the number of users in the city.
“It’s getting better now, because the price of the solar installation is getting more and more reasonable, but previously it was pretty tough if you were trying to justify it just straight on economics,” he said. “You spent so much on the actual solar panel installation that it was a very long payback period for the power that you produced out of it, but as the cost of the solar panels start to come down it’s getting so that the payback period is getting a little bit more reasonable.”
The City’s zoning bylaws for residential areas will make solar power installations the only feasible option for households that are interested in generating renewable energy.
“It’s really tough for anybody to be able to do a wind tower. Under the zoning bylaws you can’t put up a tall tower, which you would need to be able to take advantage of the wind. The limit is how tall a tower you could put up and then of course in a residential area there would be the noise issues as well. It certainly would be a possibility in an industrial or commercial area away from residential, but in the residential areas wind is really not an option within the city.”

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Matthew Liebenberg


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