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    Categories: Environment

Environment File

SCORE! — Linda Turner of Bon Accord makes her escape after scoring a free rain barrel and area rug at the 2016 Take It or Leave It event. Residents have until 1:30 today to get to the Servus Place parking lot to drop off or pick up any still useable items they like. Hundreds are expected to go bargain hunting.

Looking for a bargain? St. Albert is a picker’s paradise today as the annual Take It or Leave It event returns to town.

Hundreds of city residents will be at the north-side parking lot at Servus Credit Union Place today for the 24th annual Take it or Leave It event, which is meant to promote reuse.

Anyone is welcome to drop off any unwanted, but still useable items at the parking lot between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. today so they can have a second life, said city waste diversion co-ordinator Olivia Kwok. Visitors can also cart off any of those items for free.

“It’s one of the most popular events in the community,” she said, with some 582 carloads of people attending last year.

“People love going bargain hunting.”

Take It or Leave It regularly draws a bewildering array of consumer products, including bikes, books, lamps, couches, inflatable pools and gas generators.

Public works staffers will inspect each item before accepting it, Kwok said. Tires, toilets, mattresses, electronics, barbecues, plastic planter pots, hazardous waste and anything that’s completely unusable will be rejected. In the event several people want the same item, staffers will have them guess a number.

Residents are encouraged to bring donations to the food bank and sample hot dogs cooked by the Boy Scouts, Kwok said.

Guests will have until 1:30 p.m. to grab what they like, after which everything left will be landfilled. Last year saw about 3.5 bins worth of material was sent to the dump.

Green energy advocates predict that St. Albert will see a whole lot more solar on its rooftops now that the province has started a solar rebate program.

Environment Minister Shannon Phillips kicked off the residential and commercial solar rebate program Wednesday.

Albertans can now get up to 30 per cent off the installation cost of a residential solar system or 25 per cent off a commercial one to a maximum of $10,000 and $500,000, respectively. The rebate works out to 75 cents per watt and is available to any system installed on or after April 15, 2017.

This two-year $36 million rebate program was first announced in February. Cash for the program comes from the province’s carbon tax.

Solar is really important to building a sustainable future, said David Dodge, chair of Energy Efficiency Alberta.

“It’s clean energy, it’s technology that people love, and it’s a way for average citizens, companies and even big business to get involved.”

Solar appeals to people because it’s simple and lets you generate your own power, Dodge said. This rebate lowers the price of installation to about $2.25 per watt, and should lead to about 10,000 new systems in Alberta.

Phillips said that the rebate should add 50 megawatts of solar power and 900 jobs to Alberta by 2019, preventing some 500,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions – equivalent to about 68 per cent of St. Albert’s current emissions.

The province reports that a typical Edmonton home could generate all its own electricity with a 6.3 kilowatt solar system, which would cost about $18,000 and qualify for a $4,700 rebate.

Clifton Lofthaug, who has installed several major solar systems in the St. Albert region with Great Canadian Solar, said his company expects to go on a hiring spree in the next few weeks because of the rebate. There was considerable interest in solar out there, with many homeowners saying they planned to put up panels as soon as the province offered a rebate.

“We could easily see a doubling of our business because of this.”

Residents should look for a qualified installer and get several quotes before putting up solar panels, Lofthaug said. (Self-installed systems don’t qualify for the rebate.) Energy Efficiency Alberta and the Solar Energy Society of Alberta both have lists of reputable installers.

Visit efficiencyalberta.ca/solar for details.

Kevin Ma: Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.