More people are realizing the amazing potential of investing in solar energy. As a reliable form of renewable energy with minimal environmental impact, it’s an ideal choice for the climate-conscious consumer. New innovations in PV technology are making cells even more efficient, and with diverse payment options like financing or investing in a community grid, Canadians don’t have to compromise when it comes to choosing an affordable yet eco-friendly energy source. Recent studies on energy management and sustainability have indicated that the demand for community solar projects is on the rise, and with good reason.
High solar PV potential in Alberta
According to Natural Resources Canada, Calgary and Edmonton have ample Solar PV potential, and were ranked as two of the top major cities in terms of yearly PV potential on par with places such as Rome, Italy and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. So how can we harness the potential to maximize the benefits of Solar PV potential for Albertans? The answer is simple, and one that other renewable energy oriented countries have known for quite some time: we need to promote community and co-operative solar initiatives!
Renewable Energy Ownership
Germany is the world leader in solar development. A staggering 40% of renewable projects are community owned. Agricultural ownership dominates in Denmark and the Netherlands. However Canada, or primarily Ontario where the majority of the development here has taken place, lags far behind on both of these fronts.
In their 2017 study on energy management, sustainability, and progress, Deloitte Resources found that 41% of US residential consumers say they are extremely/very interested in purchasing a share in a community or shared solar installation (Deloitte, 2017, p.18). This number increases within the millennial demographic, where 53% expressed their desire to invest in a community solar initiative. The report documents how shared solar has gained popularity in the US within the last few years, and is predicted to grow even more because of the value that it contributes to utility companies, developers, and the conscientious consumer.
What are the benefits of community and co-operative solar?
- Easier on your wallet and the environment
- You don’t have to be a home owner to reap the rewards of investing in community solar
- Cleaner and greener energy
- Decreasing cost of solar combined with rapid innovation, research, and development in PV technology provides consumers better value for their investments
- Local investment opportunities to support the Albertan economy
- Being a part of Alberta’s transition to renewable energy
- Overcoming the stigma of NIMBYism (Not in My Backyard) by using your community to bolster support for solar projects
Solar in Alberta: Present and Future
The Alberta government has taken steps in the right direction to encourage solar adoption in our province through incentive programs such as Growing Forward on Farm Solar Photovoltaics grant program, MCCAC – Alberta Municipal Solar Program (AMSP), and the recent residential and commercial rebate programs. Additionally, micro-generation regulation changes were implemented in January 2017. In terms of community solar programs, the government is currently working on policy development and hoping to launch within the upcoming year. These prospects are exciting for SkyFire Energy, as they illustrate that progress is on the horizon for community solar projects.
Community Solar Opportunities in Alberta
ALBERTA SOLAR CO-OP
Alberta Solar Co-op is currently creating the working model for future community owned solar farms in our province and they are hoping to launch their first project next year.
SPARK (Alberta Renewable Energy Co-operative), one of the founding members of ACE (Alberta Cooperative Energy), started out as Alberta’s first member-owned retail power co-operative focused on green energy. SPARK developed their own local, Made-in-Alberta SPARK Green Offset Program which provides ACE customers with the opportunity to purchase locally generated Green Energy Offsets from small generators in Alberta. SPARK’s Green Offset Program cuts through the red tape and regulatory barriers, and lets customers support renewable energy generators of their choice. ACE’s Green Power Rate customers can support a local wind farm, bio-fuel project, a group of solar/wind micro-generators in their community or a solar installation on a local school. SPARK Green Generators are paid more than anyone else in the market because SPARK believes that micro-generators in Alberta deserve fair compensation for investing in their own systems and for supplying clean green energy into our province’s power grid. Over the last three years of the program, thousands of dollars have been directed to Alberta-based micro-generators through the SPARK Green Offset Program.
How can you bring solar into your community?
- Write a letter to your MLA or the Minister of Environment and Parks expressing your support for a Community Energy Systems
- Expressing interest at community and homeowners associations
- Considering solar installation for community-owned buildings and spaces within your area
- Conduct research within your town/county or community to find out if residents would be willing to jointly invest in a community-owned solar PV system or solar farm
Community-owned Solar Projects in Western Canada
Fortis BC Kelowna
FortisBC Electric has expressed interest in bringing a community solar energy facility on its property north of Kelowna. FortisBC recognizes the rising demand for renewable electricity and wants to provide consumers with alternative opportunities to invest in the development of solar energy in Canada. In the development stages of the project, FortisBC consulted with three different solar providers before they decided to accept SkyFire Energy’s bid; citing that they were the most cost-effective and experienced candidate of the crop. FortisBC Business Innovation & Measurement Director Mark Warren believes that, “this project will provide an option to these customers who may face barriers to having a system of their own. It will also provide valuable information that could help develop other similar renewable energy projects.”
Read more here.
Green Acres Hutterite Colony
SkyFire Energy installed a two-megawatt solar farm at Green Acres Hutterite Colony near Bassano Alberta. Green Acres solar farm is currently the largest operating PV system in Western Canada, and offsets 100% of the energy consumed by an entire community and plastic recycling plant near Bassano. This utility scale solar PV farm is not only the first of its kind in Alberta but it is also a significant milestone for the solar industry in Western Canada.
Read more here.
Kimberly SunMine Solar Farm
This 1.05 MW grid tied solar power plant which we installed in Kimberley is now the largest solar PV system in B.C., as well as the first large-scale project in Western Canada to utilize solar trackers. SunMine consists of over 4,000 solar modules mounted on 96 solar trackers which follow the sun’s movement to maximize solar exposure. Since connecting to the grid in June, SunMine has exceeded expectations by supplying BC Hydro with enough power for approximately 275 homes. SunMine is located on Teck’s former Sullivan Mine site, which has been fully reclaimed.
Read more here.
For more information on how you can bring solar into your community, contact SkyFire Energy.