Iqaluit man drapes home in solar panels, whittles May energy bill to one cent

Bert Rose believes his $14K investment will pay for itself in 6 years

Bert Rose standing in front of his solar panels at his home. Climate change is a large motivator for Rose to get the panels, as he has to think about the world his grandchildren will live in, he said. (Photo by David Lochead)

By David Lochead

Updated on Thursday, August 18, 2022 at 3:40 p.m.

Bert Rose has been involved with solar energy since he was 12 years old, when his younger brother bought a solar panel.

Now 78, Rose has them draped across his Iqaluit home.

He had them installed in August 2021, with help from the Government of Nunavut’s Renewable Energy Homeowners Grant Program. As of March 31, 81 cabins had been approved for solar panels, as were three homes, according to the GN’s director of the climate secretariat, Cameron DeLong.

Rose, who also happens to be one of the people who installed solar panels onto the Arctic College in 1992 and served on the board of directors for Qulliq Energy Corporation until 2019, said battling climate change was the main motivator for setting them up at his home.

Nunavut’s 25 communities are powered by diesel, and the Arctic climate is warming at three times the rate of the global average.

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Rose said his reason for caring about climate change is simple.

“I’ve got two grandchildren,” he said.

“I have to worry about their world.”

But Rose added his solar panels not only make sense environmentally, but economically as well.

The total cost of the panels and installation was just over $26,000, but after subtracting the GN grant of $12,400, Rose paid approximately $14,000 out of pocket. He estimates his energy savings will exceed that in about six years.

Rose said he is already seeing significant savings to his energy bills. His electricity bill was about $150 in July 2021, before he installed the panels. This May, Rose only paid one cent for electricity.

Rose’s home produces excess energy when the sun shines 24 hours a day. For the surplus energy Rose produces, he receives credits from Qulliq Energy Corporation, which in turn lowers his bills.

As well, the excess energy he produces during the summer can be banked by the energy corp. in the form of a credit that can be redeemed when there is less sunlight to generate energy. That means Rose’s winter power bills are cheaper, too.

“Until that comes in place, nothing happens,” Rose said about getting Nunavut off fossil fuels.

The GN’s renewable energy support program allows home owners to receive up to $30,000 for renewable energy that is installed into their homes. Meanwhile, cabin owners can receive $5,000 for solar panels for their cabins.

Now in its second year, the grant program closes March 31, 2022.

Correction: This article has been updated to correct the dates of the program. It has also been updated to state that Rose receives credits from QEC for the surplus energy he produces, as a previous version incorrectly stated he sells his excess  energy to QEC. 

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(30) Comments:

  1. Posted by pissed off on

    Way to go Bert !!!!

    It has been a long time in coming

    If only businesses could do the same and get some grants.

  2. Posted by Reality on

    I’ve heard that these panels last around 10 years. If so, then it’s a wash, it’s just that taxpayers are paying for the savings via the grant. Plus, the panels themselves create a lot of landfill, and need to have toxic minerals mined for their construction.

    I wish these were a better option, but it’s important to be realistic in how much solar panels in the arctic can do, and it really isn’t that much, unfortunately. At best, they are a neutral way to provide some electricity, but more likely they are a worse option for a remote area with terrible weather.

      • Posted by Soothsayer on

        “The panels at Arctic College ran from 1993 to 2025”

        Getting a little ahead of ourselves?

        • Posted by hmmm on

          Translation – I have nothing to contribute so I’m going to criticize a typo.

          • Posted by Paradox or hypocrite? on

            Cool story, looks like you are in the same boat?

    • Posted by Incorrect… on

      While the average lifespan of older panels may be 10 years, new solar panels usually come with a 25 year, 80% warranty. LG panels, for example come with this guarantee. The panels will still produce 80% of its rated energy after 25 years of use.

      Solar panel recycling is being worked on so that they can reduce their impact on the environment. Although I do agree that the end of life of Solar Panels is woefully lacking.

      Personally, I think that any amount of power you can generate without burning hydrocarbons is a positive. I have a few panels on my cabin up here and it’s what we use to keep all our devices charged. No turning on the generator to charge up the e-reader or Nintendo. No burning gas or wood to make a pot of coffee.

      • Posted by arcticrick on

        Were any of these tests conducted in the north? If not, I give a lifespan of these panels a quarter of what the last down south.

        • Posted by Bert Rose on

          The panels on Arctic College which is located in the capital city of Nunavut, Iqaluit.
          There is nothing to freeze, bust or wear out.
          How could northern conditions be any different?

          • Posted by Testing is Needed on

            The reality is overly simplictic and reality bit more complicated than that. Solar panels actually perform better when cool (below about 25) than when hot, but there are many variables, so I can’t say how extreme cold affects them. Testing is absolutely needed.

            That being said, it is a great initiative and something that we should definitely be looking at.

  3. Posted by Lucky for lucky homeowner. Not so lucky for the Territory on

    How does the power company make up for the lost revenues paid out to lucky homeowners with subsidized solar panels?

    Will it involve higher power bills for everyone else and less money to keep the territory’s clapped out diesel generators providing the still necessary baseload?

    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      There aren’t any lost revenues because the solar power takes the strain md capacity off the generators which don’t have to produce as much electricity burn as much diesel etc. etc.

      • Posted by Nunavummiut on

        The other wonderful part is less emissions going in the air. Previous comment about mining; this is not 1960’s anymore, much higher standard in developed countries and including in Canada. Albeit that companies still take advantage of poorer countries , but it is slowly changing (not fast enough). But overall we need the mines to produce the technology and luxury items we now are purchasing, computers, cell phone, smart tv’s etc….

      • Posted by Cost of electricity on

        Actually the only costs avoided are for fuel. All other costs and fuel are recovered in price per kwh. less kwh means higher price per kwh.

  4. Posted by Emily on

    Cool! What size (kW) is the installation?

    • Posted by Bert Rose on

      The system is rated at 5.2 kilowatts.
      The maximum production to date was 24.1 kws with the house using 3.8.
      So that day we banked roughky 20 Kws for next falls use.

      • Posted by Hey Bert on

        Hey Bert, is there a company that you contracted through?

      • Posted by Charles on

        5.2kW size, 24.1kWh production
        3.8kW, 20kWh production
        Learn your terms

        Power capacity: kW
        Power production: kWh

  5. Posted by Jim Hemphill on

    Wouldn’t wind turbines be a better solution in the north? Only takes a slight breeze to turn them and they work 12 months in Niagara area.

    • Posted by Bert Rose on

      In the summer solar panels produce more electricity than a house uses. Our power corporation allows us to bank that surplus as credits and use those credits through next winter.
      This program is called Net Metering.
      The advantage of solar panels is nothing moves turns or has to control blade angles.
      Solar panels – bolt them on and walk away. No maintenance at all.

      • Posted by Wash Yearly* on

        With the dust up here the only maintenance on Solar Panels is to wash them with soapy water once a year. And inspect your cables for cuts and corrosion of course.

  6. Posted by Kids on

    The unfortunate reality is that in most communities kids destroy things. They throw rocks at glass windows, vehicle windows, dogs, and everything inbetween. Just look at how much arson they’re responsible for. 24 hour sunlight and zero hours of supervision.

    You certainly won’t catch me in the current state of our community sinking that kind of money into a target for the kids. If the state of the community improves in the future perhaps, but for now the mounting locations would be to low and just an invitation for kids.

    I’m hopeful for the future though or even solar arrays fenced well put of town feeding the town.

  7. Posted by Christian Mathiesen on

    Really inspired by what you’ve accomplished. A few questions I would love to ask:
    1) Which solar panels did you use? How are they working out and would you buy them again?
    2) Do you have any recommendations for transformer and/or battery station?

    • Posted by Bert Rose on

      We used a company out of Winnipeg Solartech and Tom Fitzgerald’s contuction for the installation.
      I avoided batteries electing to use Net Metering through QEC.
      I wanted a system that required no servicing, no maintenance and no fiddling. That is what Solartech delivered.
      I am completely satisfied with this system.

      • Posted by Southern Sunlight on

        Good on you Bert fighting the good fight!

  8. Posted by Lynn HIrshman on

    Bert, I am thrilled to hear this news from you….after several jobs in social services in Colorado, I spent a year as Executive Director of the Colorado Solar Energy Industry Association, and became one of the major spokespersons for the burgeoning solar industry in the state. I always wondered how and when solar would take off in the Arctic….

  9. Posted by Paul Fraser on

    Way to go Bert and Joanne. Always ones willing to blaze trail. Never ones to resist change just because. Trusting that all is well with you and yours.

  10. Posted by Bill on

    Hmmm. lessee here; he’s 78 now, and his brother bought a solar panel when he was 12 years old?

    WoW! Who knew there were solar panels available in 1954 on an Island near the arctic circle?

    • Posted by Maq-Pat on

      While ’54 is probably the earliest possible date to have a “modern” (5%+) solar panel. Various types of solar energy cells in science kits and experiments date back almost 200 years. Splitting hairs between panels and cells is something more for the comments than the meat of the article.

      Also, not knowing Bert’s B-day or his brother’s, that story could be about ’55, ’56, or ’57. The math doesn’t check out for ’54.

      Finally, Bert wasn’t in Iqaluit as a child. The community only had about 500 permanent fulltime residents at that time.

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