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In April 2016, Manitoba Hydro offered a new solar energy program to its customers. 

VP of customer care and energy conservation Lloyd Kuczek says this is a pilot program at this time, but it has seen great interest so far. Since the program was offered Apr. 22, 110 customers have applied to participate in the program. In addition to that twenty solar installations are now completed. The program was expected to have only 30 customers participate in the first year.

"It's a significant component of how we are meeting our future energy needs of the province as our load continues to grow. We also try to manage the load on the demand side, and the solar program is one of the key components of how we are planning on doing that in the future," Kuczek says.

"I didn't expect to see that many people participate early in the game, because the economics are a bit of a challenge. Certainly people are interested in solar all across North America. It's actually good to see those in Manitoba are interested as well. It looks very promising in the future for us as well."

According to Manitoba Hydro, in Portage la Prairie and the surrounding area -- including MacGregor and Bagot -- there have been five applications to the solar program, and two installations.

The average solar system being installed under the program is about seven kilowatts, which requires approximately 28 solar panels taking up more than 400 square-feet of roof space. This set up will generate about 75 per cent of the annual electricity used in a typical gas-heated home.

"Certainly during cloudy periods you don't get as much energy produced, but there still is solar energy being produced, but there still is solar energy penetrating through the clouds. It's just not as efficient during cloudy periods," said Kuczek, when asked about how the panels generate energy on a cloudy day. "During periods like that you just have to rely more on the grid or generation resources from Manitoba Hydro to supplement your solar energy."

Approximately half of the customers who have applied for the program are financing the system through Manitoba Hydro's convenient Residential Earth Power Loan program, which provides up to $30,000 for solar photovoltaic panels.

-With files by Matt Hermiz

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