Solar Scholarship FAQ


Q: What is a Solar Scholarship?

A “Solar Scholarship” is a scholarship fund that gets it’s money from the electricity that a PV array produces. This electricity is metered at production saving the school money that would be used to purchase the electricity from a utility. The scholarship can go toward pursuits that help society tackle Climate Change through academic study, or trades apprenticeships that focus on system installation, and renewable energy training.

Q: Why Solar?

Solar energy means any form of heat, light, or electricity we get from the sun. A window can harness solar radiation for heat and light, and given thoughtful placement, windows can lower our use of energy from sources that pollute. The same holds true with other forms of Solar Energy collection like photovoltaic (PV) panels. Solar is also a form of Distributed Generation as opposed to a Central Power Plant: you make the power where you live, which is often more sustainable.

Q: Will the Solar System have batteries?

No. The system we have designed will be a grid-tied system. It will be connected to the lights, equipment and plug-ins in the school. If the sun is shining on a day that everything is powered off at the school, the electricity will flow to the “grid” and the closest utility customer will use it.

Q: Will the Solar Array provide power when the power goes out?

No, unfortunately not. BC Hydro has strict rules around grid tied PV systems, which protect the linemen from unexpected electrical shocks. Some PV systems have batteries but they are more costly, more maintenance and less efficient: this makes them less useful for generating scholarship funds.

Q: Who gets to apply for a Solar Scholarship?

Students of GISS will be able to apply for scholarships or bursaries. See a guidance counselor at the school for details.  first scholarship will not be available until the PV Array has been operational for one whole year.

Q: What is PV for EV?

PV is Photovoltaic, and EV is electric vehicles. By installing EV charging with PV systems we can get off gas. Some call this “driving on sunshine”. The GISS Solar Scholarship project will have electric vehicle charging included in the installation to help the School District lower its carbon footprint.

Q: Isn’t it too dark and rainy on Salt Spring for Solar to work?

Salt Spring Island gets over 2000hrs a year of sunshine. Even in the winter we can produce local renewable energy. Over the year, we get more sun than Germany, or Japan, two countries heavily invested in PV.

Q: What will this cost?

The total project budget as of March 31, 2014 is $106,600. We built the system for under $3/watt, and  the balance of the money is for EV infrastructure, monitoring, development and promotion, and curriculum.


Q: How long will the PV system last?

We expect the system to produce for 30yrs though there is evidence that even longer life spans are likely. PV panels are warranted for 25yrs. Some of the power components have shorter warranties. Inverters, for example are usually warranted for 10 – 15yrs, and a maintenance fund will be factored into the scholarship calculations.

Q: Why not just conserve energy, isn’t it less expensive than solar?

Conservation is the least expensive way of saving money on energy. It’s also the key to Solar’s success. Energy literacy, efficiency, and conservation all go hand in hand with PV systems and the associated energy budgeting and energy monitoring. However, conserve all you can but you’ll still be dependent on big energy infrastructure far, far away, and fossil fuels to move you around. This project will help fuel island transportation with the sunlight that is delivered to the GISS gym roof everyday: for free! This makes us a little more “energy secure”. Instead of sending energy dollars off island, we get to build our community with the money that is saved. The array as proposed would provide enough energy for over 12 vehicles providing literally millions of kilometers of travel over a 30 year life span.

renewable energy for saltspring