Many on Salt Spring will be looking at rooftops with renewed interest this week. They’ll be looking for adequate southern exposure, a clear view of the sun and a roof pitch of between 20 and 40 degrees.
These are some of the prerequisites that made the Gulf Islands Secondary School an ideal candidate for a pioneering solar-power project. The 84 solar panels installed at the school in 2014 eclipsed any other alternative energy project on the island and put Salt Spring on the province’s ever-expanding solar map.
Insomuch as Saturday’s Flick the Switch event symbolized the culmination of an incredible effort undertaken by dozens of volunteers, individual fundraisers and cooperation from the Gulf Islands School District, the solar project offers hope for the Community Energy Group’s further success.
The solar array at GISS will provide about three per cent of the school’s energy supply; there’s still much room for improvement and, fortunately, much roof space left to play with. On the way home from the project’s official launch, participants may have spotted the vacant real estate on top of the Rainbow Road Pool, ArtSpring, the Salt Spring Library or any number of private houses and workplaces in the Ganges area.
Support of similar efforts between organizations on the island stands to benefit participants in more ways than lower energy bills. As more than one speaker pointed out, producing energy on island can boost the local economy. Long after the installations are complete, energy savings get spent in the community rather than going to off-island power suppliers.
More local power production can also teach us about where our energy comes from and promote energy conservation initiatives. With the high school project already up and running, we can only hope it won’t take long for the enthusiasm to spark another creative and fruitful partnership. The solar project brought islanders together under a united cause and achieved impressive results in a surprisingly short time; that’s the kind of energy the island needs to promote.