Category Archives: News

Media for Salt Spring Community Energy and the Solar Scholarship project

SD64 board votes to support proposal for EV

Oct 16, 2018 Students in the Gulf Islands School District could be getting to school in a much greener way, after the school board voted to support in principle a proposal to bring in an electric school bus for the district.

The Salt Spring Community Energy Society proposed the project as a partnership between the two organizations. The society presented the proposal to the board at the Oct. 10 meeting on Mayne Island. The intention is to conduct a feasibility study that would be the basis for fundraising for and commissioning of the school bus. SS Community Energy will provide funds for the study.

“We’re willing to consider anything that reduces our carbon footprint,” said SD64 chair Rob Pingle. ‘The board was happy to approve the request. It’s going to take a lot of research and study to figure out if it works, but were willing to look into it.”

According to a letter sent to the school board from the society, transportation contributes the largest portion of the school board’s greenhouse gas output. The plan for an electric school bus would reduce pollution, improve children’s health as well as with fuel and maintenance costs.

“An electric school bus in the district will help to expand and show [the district’s] leadership and educational role in the community,” the letter read. “A district electric school bus will show that the district Is seriously moving toward a low-carbon, sustainable future.”

The district voted to support the request, which gives SS Community Energy the go-ahead to begin their feasibility study. Though the study is not a guarantee of acquiring a new bus, it does give the board the framework to move forward in the case of ministry funding.

“We would hope that the feasibility study would prepare us for the next time that we have access to funds from the province. We could consider taking on an electric bus and maintaining it,” Pingle said. “Helping ensure that we have the right information so that we can feel confident to take that move would be really helpful.”

SS Community Energy aims to present their findings to the board in early 2019. Their study will look at the appropriateness of the school bus on the islands, any regulations that may affect the project, different options for bus construction or acquisition and financial implications of the project.

Electric school buses are a relatively new concept for school districts. The idea already has traction in California, with multiple start-up companies building the vehicles. However, the Salt Spring proponents would have to ensure the bus’ feasibility on Salt Spring and in the Gulf Islands.

“There was a bit of nervousness [at the meeting] about whether a large electric school bus with 64 seats would ever be feasible,” Pingle said.

“At the same time, it’s the energy society that wants to do the work to figure that out and we would never stand in the way of that. It was more just speculation.”

The school board partnered with SS Community Energy in 2014 to install an 84-panel, 21 kW solar array at Gulf Islands Secondary School. The energy savings have been used to create scholarships for students.

BY MARC KITTERINGHAM Gulf Islands Driftwood Staff

Community Solar for the Gulf Islands

ISLAND TIDES – A solar panel is a beautiful thing. With no sound, moving parts, or impact on the environment, it quietly soaks up the sun and pumps out electricity. In goes sunlight and out comes the lifeblood of your light, heat, communication, and, if you’re lucky enough to own one, your electric vehicle too.

In an age when most of us depend on giant institutions for energy, this simple technology helps you break free. Just as a backyard garden gives you a local, green leg up on your food needs, a solar panel on the roof makes you an active player in meeting your energy needs. On islands where self-reliance is a shared value, these steps toward greener local autonomy are important.

Solar power offers three big benefits: clean green energy, local economic benefits, and energy cost control. Solar systems run cleanly and quietly without damaging the environment. Normally they come with a 25-year warranty, generating clean energy for decades.

Local solar arrays also help the local economy. Much of the money spent on solar power is for installation, meaning it creates jobs in the community, and the cash generated will likely circulate there. Estimates are that each megawatt of solar power creates up to 20 local jobs. That is a huge difference from energy dollars spent on fracking for gas or building huge dams for hydro megaprojects.

Solar also helps you control energy costs – studies show every kilowatt of solar you produce cuts your electric bill by 13%. Sunshine is free, meaning solar offers reliable energy at a predictable rate for decades. Every kilowatt you produce is a kilowatt you don’t have to buy from the utility at ever increasing rates.

Individual home solar installations can do all this, but they have some limitations, making community solar the next step in the energy revolution. It enables groups to share in developing local sites for the benefit of many. This makes a big difference, because many people interested in solar power lack either the finances or a suitably sunny site for their own installation. In fact, over half of US households do not have sites with sufficient availability of sunlight to warrant solar panels.

Community solar tackles the financial and site issues, providing three big benefits: equal access, affordability, and shared expertise. First, with home solar you need to win the solar lottery – the roof with excellent sun. But with a shared approach, the solar array goes where the best sun is. Where you live in the neighbourhood no longer matters. You benefit from your share of the array as if it were on your own roof. That means anyone with an electric bill – renter, condo owner, apartment dweller, or business without your own roof – you still qualify simply by participating.

Community solar also addresses the affordability issue. You don’t need a lot of money to buy into a shared solar site; you buy what you can afford, and benefit accordingly. In some models you don’t even need to buy, you just lease a panel or buy shares in output.

With community solar you also benefit from the expertise of others – there’s no need to know a lot about solar power to participate in a project. The group helps in choosing an optimal site, getting professional maintenance, and building at the most economical scale. As the group acquires expertise, so do you – you’re never on your own.

Equal access and affordability are especially important on islands like Salt Spring. Heavy forest cover limits the number of available sunny sites here. And where there is a good site, the owner may lack the financing or the energy consumption pattern required to make the project economically feasible under existing BC Hydro rates. By contrast, a community-based approach helps the most people tap the best sites. Still, BC Hydro’s rate design needs to change in order to make this a reality here.

In Nelson BC, the city-owned electric utility is demonstrating the possibilities by launching a pilot community solar project. Nelson Hydro general manager, Alex Love will be presenting their approach at the 2016 Community Energy Conference and Social on Salt Spring April 23rd. Also at this event, John Farrell, Energy Democracy Director at the Institute of Local Self Reliance, will be presenting by video the rapid development of shared solar in the United States.

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.

Salt Spring Island school warms up to solar


Electrical engineer Will Andrew, left, installer Lane Gromme and project manager Kjell Liem install solar panels on the roof of Gulf Islands Secondary School. The 21-kilowatt project went live in December.   Photograph By Ron Watts, Photo courtesy of ronwattsphoto
Electrical engineer Will Andrew, left, installer Lane Gromme and project manager Kjell Liem install solar panels on the roof of Gulf Islands Secondary School. The 21-kilowatt project went live in December. Photograph By Ron Watts, Photo courtesy of ronwattsphoto


When a Salt Spring Island community group took on the task of bringing solar power to a local high school, it wasn’t just the students they hoped to reach.

“We wanted to show that the technology was mature and even a small community can implement it,” said Kjell Liem, project manager for the Salt Spring Community Energy Group.

The 84 solar photovoltaic panels covering the Gulf Islands Secondary School gym roof went live in December. It is the largest school-based solar array in B.C., according to B.C. Hydro, and the seventh largest overall.

Although the 21-kilowatt project will cover only a portion of the school’s electricity needs, the money the school saves on its energy bill will support an annual $2,000 scholarship for a graduating student planning to study renewable energy or climate change.

The energy saved is roughly equivalent to the typical consumption of two single-family homes, Liem said.

“We were mostly interested in the educational opportunities of something that would benefit the kids, because they’re the ones who ultimately have to respond to climate change,” he said.

The learning opportunity goes beyond the scholarship, said School District 64 superintendent Lisa Halstead.

“I think it’s an absolutely terrific project,” Halstead said. “Not only does it provide energy and scholarships for our students, but we can also use it as a teaching tool in the district.”

School principal Lyall Ruehlen said it’s one of several projects at the school encouraging sustainability. The school has a greenhouse, as well as a “living lettuce wall” that grows produce for the cafeteria’s salad bar.

Working with the school’s chef in the greenhouse is an elective program, he said.

While students in the school’s environmental club were involved in crafting the initial solar proposal to the school board and educating the rest of the school about the project, others became interested as they saw the panels being installed.

“It really happened when you could see our maintenance personnel, staff members and groups of students actually helping out. That’s when other students would get interested — ‘Hey, what’s so-and-so doing over there?’ ” Ruehlen said. “The days would go by and you’d actually start to see progress.”

The $100,000 project was funded through donations, grants and other contributions, including $5,000 from the Salt Spring Island Foundation, $20,000 from Bullfrog Power and $9,700 from the Carbon Neutral Capital Program. Other donors include Windsor Plywood, the local Lions Club and the Raging Grannies.

© Copyright Times Colonist


BCHydro features the Solar Scholarship

Salt Spring’s ‘Solar high’ gets power, and a scholarship, from sun

solar-high-school-full-width-peoplePutting energy savings into scholarship key to fundraising for solar panels

An array of 84 solar photovoltaic panels on the gym roof of Gulf Islands Secondary School isn’t just helping power the school. It’s powering advanced education in the form of an annual $2,000 scholarship.

And that’s not in any way just a feel-good by-product of the 21-kilowatt solar power project. It’s what sets the project apart, and is arguably what made the whole thing possible. Continue reading BCHydro features the Solar Scholarship

Funding Partnership Annoucement

Bullfrog Power Partners with Transition Salt Spring Community Energy Group And School District 64 to Create Solar Scholarship for BC High School Grads

Bullfrog Power commits up to $20,000 in matching donations

Vancouver, August 12, 2014—Bullfrog Power, Canada’s leading green energy provider, and Transition Salt Spring Community Energybfp_logo Group have partnered to help fund the development of a rooftop solar installation of the Gulf Islands Secondary School (GISS) on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia. When built, the installation will be the largest school-based solar photovoltaic array in British Columbia. Continue reading Funding Partnership Annoucement