Spotlight Shines on Solar Farmers

Hats off to an old friend from high school (Kyle Parker) and his role with the Solar Energy project.


Friday's 140-kilometre-per-hour winds couldn't move Kyle Parker's solar panels in White City.

"How the solar panels survived is beyond me," said Parker, co-owner of Prairie Solar Power (PSP), a company that sells power generated from its White City solar farm to SaskPower.

He hopes the panels survive as long as possible with a long-term business plan firmly in place.

The 120-panel farm is has been in the works for three years, Parker said, adding that they started to install solar panels about a month ago.

"We're doing things differently here," said co-owner Bill Walton.

PSP applied for SaskPower's small power producers program, which allowed the company to generate up to 100 kilowatts of solar power, selling all of it to SaskPower.

SaskPower pays 9.8 cents for every kilowatt hour produced by solar panels. That rate increases by two per cent for each consecutive year thereafter.

On a perfectly sunny day, the solar farm's three systems produce 50-70 kilowatt hours per day, Walton said, adding that he and Parker, along with some workers, will install seven more systems on the farm, which will make it generate 100 kilowatts.

"Once that happens, we will put out enough electricity to power 17 homes," he said, stressing that those homes have to be about 1,100 square feet with energy-efficient appliances. "(The farm will) bring in about $20,000 in revenue per year."

Each solar panel weighs about 18 kilograms, and is made out of neoprene glass, Walton said, adding that there are 40 solar panels for every 21-metre metal frame.

Golf-ball-sized hail, falling at 80 km/h, doesn't break the panels, Walton said. "They'd be worthless if hail or wind took them out."

Around noon on Tuesday, 13 solar panels generated 431 volts of direct-current electricity, which will be converted to 240 volts of alternating current electricity by the inverters on the farm.

Even though the winter months tend to be darker, solar panels generate more energy during those months due to the sunlight reflecting off of the snow.

"You'll get more kilowatt hours per hour out of sunlight in the wintertime than you will in the summertime," Parker said. "Everything runs more efficiently in the winter."

But he admitted there have been some weak sunlight days in the winter.

"I've had five kilowatt hours in one day during the winter," he said. "Clouds do affect it, but it all works out over the year."

Parker said he started the venture with Walton because he knew he could make money while saving electricity costs.

"I had zero power bills in the summer from spring to fall," Walton said.

Parker argued solar power is more efficient than wind power.

Saskatchewan should adopt more solar-energy initiatives, Walton added. "People want to save money. I know a lot of young people who include solar panels in their mortgages."

Approximately 180 homes and businesses in the province use solar power to supplement electricity they receive from SaskPower. Generally, 33 jobs could be created for every megawatt of solar energy produced, Parker said, adding that two more solar farms will be developed in Estevan and Craik.

As of July 30, Ontario is starting 500 renewable energy contracts that will supply 123.5 megawatts of power. Of those, 490 contracts will be solar-energy projects.

"I'm hoping something like that really takes off in this province," Walton said. "We're the sunlight capital of Canada."


Jenni Bast

Jenni Bast

CENTURY 21 Dome Realty Inc.
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