City warms to solar power

New Shuswap solar society receives enthusiastic response to alternative form of energy.

Let the sun shine!

Salmon Arm is embracing solar power, if only in its preliminary stages.

The newly formed Shuswap Solar Energy Society held its first public meeting in January to gauge how widespread the interest in solar is, in hopes of setting up a demonstration project that models the production and use of solar energy in public and private settings throughout the Shuswap.

Warren Bell, one of a core group of four who formed the society, says the group has been meeting about every two weeks. They’ve heard a strong expression of interest, albeit preliminary, from the City of Salmon Arm, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District as well as eight landowners.

He says it’s been first a question of knowing what to do, which has been aided by a couple of people with direct experience in setting up solar. The group has also been approached by installers from Vernon and Kelowna.

“Overall it’s gone quite rapidly forward,” Bell says. “It’s clear there’s a hunger for moving away from fossil fuel dependency, both economically and environmentally.”

Related: Harnessing sun in the Shuswap

He says the price of solar has improved dramatically. While the payback might be 15 years, “in the meantime, there’s a remarkable independence from the electrical grid. And with prices going up, people are thinking about it all the time.”

He adds that the approval of the Site C dam has soured some people from BC Hydro.

Related: Province provides funding for solar project

In the local government realm, Coun. Tim Lavery, who chairs the city’s environmental advisory committee, gave council notice on March 12 of a motion he’ll bring forward for council to discuss on March 26.

The motion suggests that the city consider initiating a “grid-tied net metering Solar Photo Voltaic Plot Project on a city property…” with data to be shared with the public.

The motion also suggests that the costs associated with the pilot project, including auditing of potential sites, installation, connections and three years of annual maintenance, be funded from the Climate Action Reserve.

Lavery’s motion recommends that city staff report back on a number of issues including viable sites, cost estimates, energy generation and payback length, as well as “how best to structure usage agreements where tenants of leased city properties currently pay for the electricity they use if that city building is a potentially viable site.”

In January, the Salmon Arm Arts Centre’s director-curator Tracey Kutschker told city council she is researching a solar power project to meet the needs of the arts centre, which is a city-owned building. Her hope is to have a 48-panel solar array sit atop the roof of the newest portion of the structure.

The solar array would be in keeping with the centre’s focus for the next three years on climate change.


@SalmonArm
marthawickett@saobserver.net

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