Terratek Energy Solutions Inc. staff work on the solar installations on West Coast General Hospital’s roof.

Costs come down for solar energy

More people are choosing off-the-grid power sources

With BC Hydro prices on the rise more people are going green by investing in renewable energy.

Solar energy is renewable, resilient and reliable, according to Wes Hyde, lead installer at Viridian Energy Co-operative, and is being seen more on the Island.

“People are actually taking their money out of pensions and investing into solar,” said Hyde. “With BC Hydro prices going up and solar prices coming down we’ve reached a point where it actually financially makes sense to invest.”

BC Hydro is applying a four per cent increase in rates beginning in April that would add roughly $4 to most monthy power bills.

Hyde and Viridian Energy will be installing a small solar power system on the Bainbridge Water Treatment Plant in Port Alberni in the coming weeks. Hyde said the new system will offset power usage within the building and will be used to test the technology and show people how it is used.

“[The new system] will be used to feed a small amount of energy into the building which will be 100 per cent consumed on site,” Hyde said.

The Bainbridge Water Treatment Plant was completely reconstructed in December 2015 and is now a $4 million facility. The plant has a “green” roof and Hyde said the solar panels won’t go through the roofing membrane but instead they’ll sit on top of the roof and use gravel to hold them down.

Four, three-by-six foot, panels are expected to provide enough energy to power the chlorine injector pumps at the plant.

Peter Mieras, owner of Rendezvous Dive Adventures, is familiar with the benefits of using solar energy.

Mieras and his wife Kathy live completely off the grid in a rural, boat-access only, location in Barkley Sound where they run a scuba diving and adventure lodge. They optimize the use of a generator, battery bank and solar panels to create power.

“We feel like we have to take care of the environment as best we can,” Mieras said. “And yes, we use power, there’s no question about it, but we don’t waste it.”

Mieras installed the panels on his roof three years ago and said with how much power they save daily, he should have the panels completely paid for in three and a half years. Mieras’ panels are most efficient on sunny summer afternoons which reduces the amount of time his generator will have to run.

“We actually create more power than we use and the battery bank fills up, fills up, fills up,” Mieras said.”

Feeling that North America is far behind in using renewable energy, Mieras believes our country could take some energy-saving tips from Europe, who are the No. 2 global leaders in the development and application of renewable energy.

“There’s so many things that you can build into a house, even in a townhouse, that will reduce power use and generate power at the same time,” Mieras said.

Port Alberni city councillor, Chris Alemany, put a solar hot water panel on his Sixth Avenue home in 2006 that preheats his home’s hot water.

“I put it together myself and bought all of the stuff on eBay,” Alemany said.

Alemany said his small solar system was an experiment and that since prices on solar panels have come down he plans to upgrade to a new system that will start producing some real power.

“In 2008 it was about three dollars a watt for a solar panel.,” Alemany said. “Now you can get them for under a dollar, so its come down significantly. Our hydro rates have obviously gone up significantly, so you put that together and you start approaching the point where it’s feasible to put in solar panels.”

At a city council meeting on Feb. 22, Hyde talked about the success of other communities currently using or developing solar energy projects.

“The City of Kimberley invested huge into what they call a sun mine,” Hyde said.  “They invested 5.3 million dollars and they own their own system and sell to BC Hydro at a base contract for over 25 years.”

Nelson has their own community solar garden, Hyde said; the Cowichan Valley has a group of investors and solar advocates looking to lease land to develop a solar farm and a First Nations community in Sooke uses thermal solar on their homes.

“Basically people are investing in bonds and those bonds then finance solar projects,” Hyde said.

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