Rural couple sells solar to prairie producers

Jennifer and Shane Hunter promote solar energy as good for the environment but also as beneficial for the bottom line

RADVILLE, Sask.—Southern Saskatchewan gets more than 2,300 hours of sunlight per year, and as far as Shane Hunter is concerned, that’s a valuable resource that is going to waste.

The journeyman electrician established Meridian Solar and Electric Inc. with his wife, Jennifer, in 2016 to show business and farm owners that the power of sunlight could save significant energy costs.

“There’s a huge resource of energy that comes up with the sun every single day,” said Shane, adding that southern Saskatchewan gets more sunlight than anywhere else in Canada.

“In Canada, Saskatchewan is the second worst for energy efficiency but that could be turned around if we’d just tap into solar, which is the cheapest source of energy around.”

Shane witnessed the power of solar energy while working in the Napa Valley in California in the early 2000s. He spent almost a decade in the United States installing solar systems for vineyards that were moving toward running their entire operations, including irrigation systems, on solar power.

“I rode through the whole solar boom in California years ago and I can see that kind of shift happening here too — it’s inevitable,” said Shane, explaining that most of Saskatchewan’s energy needs currently come from electricity produced from fossil fuels.

Shane and Jennifer both recognize the environmental value of shifting away from fossil-fuel use, and have seen first-hand the economic benefit of solar power with systems they have installed systems on farms that have lowered energy bills to zero.

“It is an investment to install a solar system,” said Jennifer, the Meridian Solar office manager.

“But we look at it like a mortgage on a house because after you pay for it, you own it and your power bills are gone.”

They have worked with farmers with annual power bills in the range of $6,000 to $10,000, which includes electricity to homes, shops and aeration bins.

“There is a connection fee that SaskPower charges that is $35 (per) month, but we have been able to get rid of a farmer’s entire energy consumption bill, which is a huge savings,” said Shane.

While solar power has increased in popularity in Saskatchewan over the past decade, the Hunters said what they are offering is a holistic approach to energy consumption. That involves auditing an entire operation’s energy use and revamping it to make it the most cost-effective and energy-efficient it can be.

“What we do that no one else is doing is that we can design a whole system applying all the grants and using as much solar power as possible and in the end, we can prove on paper that it is economical,” said Shane.

Jennifer Hunter joined her husband in the solar power business in 2016 when they established Meridian Solar and Electric Inc. | Christalee Froese photo

“We come in and do everything from checking your insulation, wiring and equipment and we suggest upgrades that give you the greatest power savings.”

Jennifer added that while they want customers to feel good about lowering their carbon footprint with solar, they also want the installation of a solar system to positively impact the bottom line of an operation.

“It’s the kind of investment that benefits people for the long run,” she said.

“Our goal is to show our customers that they will actually save money over time.”

Large operations, in particular, have a huge opportunity to eliminate power bills and even return energy into the provincial grid, said Shane.

“The more people consume, like with a large ranch with heated watering bowls or a seed plant, there is a huge opportunity there for solar to save money for them.”

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