This article was published (November 26, 2015) in ‘Island Tides’, an independent, regional newspaper distributing on the Canadian Gulf Islands, on Vancouver Island and, via the internet, worldwide.

Local low-impact energy news—schools lead the way

It’s been nearly a year since completion of the solar panel installation on the gym roof at Gulf Islands Secondary School. After a summer of glorious sunshine, it was time to check on how the system has performed compared with expectations, said Salt Spring Community Energy.

‘While the rated output of the solar array is 21 kilowatts (kW) we had expected small losses at various stages—the panels themselves, the wiring and inverters—to reduce the maximum power into the grid to about 17 kW on very sunny days. So how has it performed? Beyond expectations!

‘During May, June and July we regularly saw the output above 18 kW with some days over 19kW—a system efficiency of over 90% compared to the industry norm of 80%.

‘This is attributable to the care taken in the design and installation of the system.

‘By early October we had already surpassed our predicted annual output and a further 2,800 units are expected for the rest of this year. This great result means that the amount of money available for the winner of next year’s solar scholarship will be more than expected!

‘The system has also performed well operationally. It shut down automatically as expected for safety reasons during several BC Hydro power failures. When the power came back on, so did our system.

Pender School, Next Solar Project

Putting solar arrays on public buildings is a move that is gaining momentum. Pender Solar Initiative 2020 (PSI) is planning and fundraising for its next project, which involves a partnership with School District No64 to install approximately 120 solar panels on the southwest-facing roof of the Pender School.

This project is more than three times as large as the group’s successful first project, a 39-panel photovoltaic system on the roof of Pender’s Recycling Depot financed by the Nu-to-Yu and the CRD. That system was installed in March and has already generated more electricity than the depot uses in a year, meaning that the Pender Island Recycling Society will receive a cheque from BCHydro for the surplus energy generated.

The value of the electricity generated by the solar roof at the school will be used to fund student scholarships in sustainability-related programs and to purchase energy-related science equipment for the school.

Pender Solar Initiative 2020 has already raised more than $30,000, including a $15,000 matching grant from Bullfrog Power and generous donations from several enthusiastic supporters on Pender. Grant applications are in process, and each class at the school has been challenged to sponsor at least one panel. PSI 2020 also hopes many Pender residents and Pender School alumni will sponsor individual panels, possibly in honor of children, grandchildren, or other loved ones.

 In August at the Pender Fall Fair, young Nevan McClarty made an enthusiastic contribution of $4 to the Pender School solar roof project, which was subsequently topped up by a generous donor to enable the purchase of a panel.

At the launch of David Boyd’s new book The Optimistic Environmentalist, various donors, including the author and the owners of Pender’s Talisman Books, chipped in enough to sponsor two panels.

If you would like to support this project, we are requesting donations of $250 per solar panel (and feel free to sponsor as many as you like!). However, donations of any size will be gratefully received. Cheques should be made out to the Gulf Islands Education Trust Fund, and mailed to David Boyd at 1321 MacKinnon Road, Pender Island V0N 2M1. Please note on the cheque that it is for the Pender School Solar Roof Project. Donations for more than $50 will receive a charitable tax receipt. The goal is to have the system up and running by the end of the 2015/2016 school year.