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Solar Colwood rises from the ashes, spreads wings

Solar Colwood is on the rise again now that Colwood council has overturned its recent split-vote decision to let the program expire.
Colwood Coun. Judith Cullington: "We've got longer to access the grants."

Solar Colwood is on the rise again now that Colwood council has overturned its recent split-vote decision to let the program expire.

Councillors voted unanimously Monday to expand the solar hot water program to property owners across the capital region and to adjust the contract with Natural Resources Canada to extend Solar Colwood to March 2015. The NRCan has provided up to $3.9 million toward the program, designed to retrofit municipal buildings with solar energy and offer incentives to homeowners and business owners to do the same, both with hot water heaters and ductless split heat pumps.

“We’ve got longer to access the grants,” said a pleased Colwood councillor Judith Cullington as she charged her electric car on Tuesday afternoon.

Beginning this fall, 300 homes and businesses in the capital region will be eligible for up to $3,000 apiece in federal grants to defray the cost of installing solar power to save money and energy, said Sarah Webb, regional climate action co-ordinator at the Capital Regional District.

Some approvals are still required from the federal government, she said. “Our goal, if it is successful, is to roll out a region-wide incentive program in the fall.”

It’s hoped that single-family and multi-unit homes, as well as businesses, will qualify.

The CRD has worked closely with Colwood staff for several weeks to come up with a plan to extend the program without Colwood having to foot the bill.

“It’s a fabulous program,” said Cullington, who received many calls after the Times Colonist’s June 4 report that the program was winding down.

Colwood has about 6,000 homes, of which only about 30 have signed on for solar hot water — far short of the 880 planned.

In the meantime, business owners can take advantage of a free energy assessment and homeowners can book audits that cost about $150, with a waiting time of a week or two, Webb said.

The Solar Colwood program has been operating since 2011.

“People outside of Colwood often ask how they can access the grants, but we’ve been restricted to the Colwood boundary,” said program manager Chris Birchall said in a statement.

The one-year program extension to March 2015 will give major development projects such as Capital City Centre and the two new high schools on the West Shore the opportunity to take advantage of the program.

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