Community Solar: After Earth Day

Community Solar: After Earth Day

April 23, 2013

Life sometimes seems to go back to business after Earth Day, so I thought it would be appropriate to tell you about the activities of the Salt Spring Community Energy Group to let you know that change is in the wind.

On Feb 20th, 2013 an ad-hoc group of Transition Saltspringers met to discuss the good news about falling solar PV (photovoltaic) prices and some interesting new models of solar energy developments. Because the renewable energy ideas discussed were almost as good as the hospitality and sweets provided by our hosts, we decided we must meet again, and soon. Many of us had recently attended a community forum with Elizabeth May at the Beaver Point Hall.  It had become clear, once again, that this is time to act to reduce Global Warming, and this is a great community within which take action.

In the ensuing 2 months we’ve seen some change in the BC Energy picture. Industry is lobbying BC Hydro to allow cheap LNG electrical production at the expense of legislated Carbon Reduction Targets. The pipelines fiasco are as dirty as ever. The provincial program to buy private power has gone through revision. And BC Hydro’s Net Metering program –that allows customers to sell surplus power from their solar and renewable energy systems– is finishing a revision that may well encourage projects like what we envision on Salt Spring.

And of course there is the much needed provincial election. There may be a new political mandate for climate action and a more just energy policy.

This last Friday the 19th of April we took a tour: a Solar Colwood “PV for EV” installation (photovoltaics for electric vehicles), and the top notch T’Sou-ke Nation Solar project.

Andrew Moore of T’Sou-ke Nation told us what they’ve experienced with their impressive solar installation, which is the largest in the province by a factor of two. He shared a list of lessons learned including the classic one of energy efficiency and conservation first. This is something all solar PV folks learn early on in their projects. It’s simply about maximizing payback of the electricity that’s created.

T’Sou-ke has provided secure electricity for themselves, and often host guests from the town of Sooke when the electrical grid goes down. They have trained and provided ongoing employment for their youth with green-tech installation jobs, become an eco-tourist destination, built an education centre for school kids. They’ve created a demonstration project for remote first nations communities where they can see what life can be like without full-time diesel generators, a fuel they sometimes need to deliver by helicopter. And they are an inspiring role models for us.

We had earlier caught up with David Grove of the Royal Bay Bakery. He has driven his 2012 Nissan Leaf for an entire year on electricity provided by the sun. How can one do that, you may ask? With Net Metering David’s six panels have delivered more juice to the grid than he has needed to power his wheels. Imagine, no more gas stations, no more tail pipes: lucky David has been cruising on sunshine (what would John Lennon have said).

Here are some of the activities of the community solar group to date:

Feb 20th, 2013 working group formed.

· Ongoing meetings: March 3, March 14, and April 4.
· An initial informal meeting with BC Hydro.
· Brochure produced.
· Information table & public presentation at Resilience fair March 23.
· Research into zoning.
· Extensive modelling with solar PV software that included equipment design, electricity bill savings, and carbon offset calculations.
· Delegation of key roles within the working group.
· Solar PV assessment of Artspring’s south facing roof with shade analysis.
· Educational tour April 19th.
· An invitation to participate as a stakeholder in upcoming Net Metering program developments.
· And more I’m sure.

Stay in touch, and thanks for your interest in Salt Spring Community Solar.