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The Canadian city of Halifax is on its way to become the first Solar City in Nova Scotia. The capital of Nova Scotia province is also the major economic centre of eastern Canada and has around 400,000 inhabitants. The regional authority, the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) Council, is preparing to launch a solar pilot programme which it hopes will lead to the installation of up to 1,000 residential solar water heaters. These heaters will be financed through an annual surcharge on the property tax over the next ten years. A milestone was achieved on 15 December 2011 when the HRM Council invited tenders from solar thermal system suppliers which would like to participate in the solar pilot programme.
“We expect the first solar water heaters to be installed in May 2012,” Julian Boyle from the energy and environmental office of HRM confirms. This will bring an end to two years of on-going communication with the local industry and system suppliers. For example, flat plate collector manufacturer Thermodynamics is located in the HRM area. “We wanted to put a really good programme in place that works well, too,” says Boyle. 1,000 new solar hot water systems in just 1.5 years represent a big step ahead compared to the around 200 solar water heaters which had been installed annually in the entire province beforehand.
“In the first phase, we concentrate on residential water heaters and we would like to make the purchase as easy for home owners as possible,” Boyle explains. “We check the suppliers that offer 1 or 2 collector systems at flat rate prices. We also support home owners in applying for subsidy money and offer them an easy way of financing.”
The provincial government has given their OK for the HRM solar programme to deduct annual tranche of the solar water heating investments with the participant’s annual tax bill. HRM assumes an annual payment of up to CAD 400 per taxpayer depending on the interest rate and the available rebates. The HRM council foresees a CAD 8 million budget for the first phase that covers pre-financing the 1,000 systems, as well as administration costs.
Interested house owners have been able to fill in a preliminary online form since December 2010. About 2,000 householders have already applied, although not all homes will meet the criteria. “The people in our region do have too high expectations of what solar can contribute to hot water and space heating in their homes,” solar building designer Don Roscoe, a man with 30 years of experience, explains. “Many houses are so poorly insulated that we have to tell people to first improve insulation before purchasing a solar water heater.” Don Roscoe is member of the Solar Nova Scotia Society, a voluntary association which worked closely together with the city administration to draw up the solar programme. The association formed a Solar NS Industry Committee and approved the Code of Ethics that had been developed by Cansia, the Canadian Solar Industry Association (see the attached document). Roscoe adds: “Our main goal is to put a programme in place that takes up very well and does not damage the reputation of the industry as the many failing installations of solar thermal systems in the 70s did.”
Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) Council: http://www.halifax.ca/solarcity/