Foothills County council's decision to delay taking advantage of an 80 per cent federal funding grant to install solar PV on the Scott Seaman Sports Rink where an investment of $260,000 would generate annual savings of $63,5000 is a reflection of common attitude among Albertans.
Despite the 24 per cent return on investment, automatically rising with electrical rate inflation and providing big saving for taxpayers, it is being viewed with suspicion. Solar PV is not unproven, powering the Mars rover for 15 years before a massive dust storm blocked out the sun until the batteries died.
Attitudes are perhaps influenced by a report describing a scenario where solar farms would be decommissioned after a few years, replaced by more efficient panels with the old ones choking up the landfills. Solar panels do degrade over time, minimally warrantied to have over 83 per cent original capacity after 25 years; some guarantee 88 per cent after 40 years.
It's unrealistic to suggest that electricity prices won't rise 17 per cent in 25 years so the financial benefits actually increase over time. If required, original output can be restored by adding a few more panels.
The PV industry has also taken measures to ensure recycling facilities will be in place when the demand develops and the value of recycled materials and increasing demand assures that it will be. It could be a while yet as panels from decommissioned installations can be re-purposed for livestock watering and many other off grid systems.
Solar panels are used as carport roofing in auto dealerships because they are much tougher than steel on cars and most roofing materials, providing insurance against hail damage while paying their way. There is a stronger case for imposing end of life recycling fees on vinyl siding, asphalt roofing or windows which are thrashed in hail events.
Solar PV roof and ground mount systems are a good investment for Foothills residents. In addition to the potential to offset the entire home or farm electrical needs, it can be upsized to cover electric vehicles where an extra equipment investment (for a DIY installation) of $4,000 is enough to power an EV for 15,000 kilometres a year indefinitely. Reduced respiratory disease is a free health bonus.
This is not to say that major equipment purchases should not meet scrutiny for good design and value, dependable installers and suppliers who respond to warranty claims but PV panel installation on standing seam steel roofs is a proven mounting method, rarely requiring structural modifications.