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EDITORIAL: Shining new opportunity

Progress is often slow, but we could argue anything headed in the right direction is good. Many people aren’t convinced that renewable sources will ultimately fill our energy needs, and that might be true given current technology, but like anything else, we should expect continual advances.

In the meantime, a program to encourage solar energy use has been launched in Nova Scotia. Funding for the SolarHomes program will be administered by Efficiency Nova Scotia and will come from a commitment from the federal government, combined with support from the provincial government, along with Nova Scotians contributing through residential rates for programs that increase renewable energy use and make homes more energy efficient.

Under the program, homeowners are eligible to receive a $1-per-watt rebate, or about 30 per cent of the installation cost of a solar electricity system, according to information from the province. An average rebate would be about $7,000, with a maximum of $10,000.

The four-year program is set to launch in mid-August, but if a homeowner goes ahead with such a project before then the rebate would be retroactive to June 25 if it meets all the criteria.

The aim is for about 2,000 Nova Scotia households to take advantage of the program during its four years of operation, according to Peter Craig, team leader for solar and smart energy strategy with the provincial Energy Department. The push to take advantage of photovoltaic energy, Craig said, comes as prices for the equipment continues to fall dramatically.

It will be a great opportunity for those thinking of making this kind of leap in investing in their homes – and in future energy savings.

But, of course, it doesn’t end here, and as long as the sun shines we should expect continued focus on ways solar energy – and other renewable forms – can cut down reliance on fossil fuels. More study on designs for new home construction would be wise to make them more energy efficient – to both reduce energy needs and to take advantage of solar.

Champions of renewable energy have often made the point: if as much money from governments was invested into newer technologies as they sink into supporting the oil industry we might be over the hump by now toward a greener future. That thought becomes even more à propos after seeing the feds pay billions of dollars to buy a pipeline to see through the seemingly never-ending project of getting crude from Alberta’s oilsands onto ocean tankers and bound for international markets.

It goes beyond panels attached to houses. For example, work continues on taking advantage of the natural process that occurs during photosynthesis that could help in designing more efficient artificial solar cells. Other research involves mimicking photosynthesis through a solar energy process to convert carbon dioxide into biofuels.

We might not be there yet in making these renewable sources of energy widely available, but this is the kind of research and work that needs to be encouraged.

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