The Alberta government has announced that it is putting up $36 million over a two year period for a rebate program that is designed to encourage rooftop solar panels on homes and businesses.

The program is expected to create 900+ jobs in the next few years and will reduce solar installation costs by up to 30% for homes and 25% for businesses. As you can imagine, this is exciting news for the solar industry and specifically, for Alberta.

We recently interviewed David Kelly of SkyFire Energy on the impact that this has on the industry.

David has been in the solar industry since 2001 when he installed a 600 watt solar photovoltaic (PV) system on his own home. Seeing the bright future for solar, he formed SkyFire Energy Inc. with Tim Schulhauser and David Vonesh.

David has also served four terms on the board of the Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA) and is currently the Chair of CanSIA.

Here’s our interview with David.

Solar West (SW): What does the announcement of Alberta’s new Residential and Commercial solar program mean for the solar Industry in Alberta and who benefits the most?

David Kelly (DK): Consumers will see the most benefit as the rebate program significantly lowers the cost of solar and in some cases, it’s become cheaper than wind energy. Homeowners will be able to participate and receive some of their carbon dollars back.

The economy benefits as well. This program is anticipated to create over 900 jobs, which in turn generates sales revenue and investments into the industry and dollars being funnelled back into the economy.

Finally, the job market benefits. Everyone always thinks first about the installation jobs but other areas are impacted as well. Operations and maintenance, engineering and design work, electrical, accounting, project management — these are all areas in which jobs are created to support the solar industry growth.

On the wholesale side, you see growth for distributors and in turn, shipping and receiving gets a boost, too. The job growth has impact on the entire gamut of this industry and the businesses affected by it.

There will be impact as well on the larger scale side of the industry — beyond the residential opportunities. We’ll see jobs being created in areas such as construction, trenching, road-building, ground-mount installations and more. It’s a really exciting time for job-seekers in Alberta.

SW: Which sectors of the Alberta economy are most likely to feel this boost?

DK: I think we’ll see the most impact on the installation side of the industry as well as in the engineering field. Engineers play a big role in this space as they are responsible for looking at the electrical layout of the systems, what currently exists in the targeted buildings and what needs to happen to deploy it.

SW: How does it impact related industry/supply chain companies outside of the solar industry? Will this significantly expand opportunities and encourage new companies to participate in the solar industry?

DK: We’re already seeing the impact of the rebate program. Last year there were maybe 20 solar installers on the SESA (Solar Energy Society of Alberta) website and this year there are over 120. This rapid growth affects other industries and businesses as they ramp up to provide services and products that these installers, and other industry-members, require.

We’re also seeing interest from around the world in the solar industry — Europe, Asia, Ontario, US. Developers are taking interest and are looking to develop projects in Alberta.

Finally, CanSIA and SESA are both seeing growth in their membership as interest in the solar industry climbs.

SW: How do you expect the program to impact demand for solar and how quickly will that demand be felt?

DK: The week after the announcement, our phone was ringing off the hook and we are receiving tons of email inquiries — the demand is already happening now. The program could be launched in mid- to end of April, which means that things will start moving very quickly in the Spring and moving into Summer.

SW: What are you most looking forward to at Solar West?

DK: First and foremost, I’m excited about the number of new businesses and attendees at Solar West this year — I anticipate that the Alberta announcement is going to draw out a lot of people who are taking interest in Alberta. Second, I always enjoy the conference as I meet potential new customers there and connect with colleagues.

It’s a great time.