The Cowichan Valley Regional District’s first solar photovoltaic (PV) system is up and running at Bings Creek Recycling Centre where $72,000 in panels is expected to offset electricity costs at the facility by 10 per cent annually.
The project is funded by taxpayers across the CVRD and aided by a $24,000 grant as part of the B.C. government’s Community Energy Leadership Program.
CAO Brian Carruthers said several factors made Bings Creek, the main hub for the region’s waste and curbside recycling, an ideal location for the demonstration project.
“We have a lot of people that come through this facility on a regular basis that will be exposed to this project. Secondly, we have great exposure here from sunshine,” Carruthers said.
The buildings also didn’t require “significant modification” to have the 88 PVs installed on top of the administrative and recycling buildings.
“It was sort of a natural facility for us to consider this kind of a project,” Carruthers added.
Its estimated the PVs will help generate 28,500 kWh in the first year, or an estimated savings to the facility of about $3,100.
The installed cost per watt is $3.09/watt, while the expected lifetime of the panels is over 30 year or longer.
Vice-Chair Bob Day said increasing both staff and public’s awareness of PVs and renewable technology might convince people to try a system on their own home.
“This project supported local renewable energy industry…it reduces greenhouse gas emissions and saves the CVRD money,” Day said.
“I often think maybe if we went about it with the mindset if we install it right from the get-go and include it in our initial cost then it wouldn’t be a big cost factor later on down the road and the payback would be a lot longer.”
The system is grid-tied, meaning it is part of BC Hydro’s Net-Metering Program where any excess electricity generated is credited to the account and then applied against future electricity use.
Viridian Energy Co-operative was contracted to install the system at the Drinkwater Road depot; The PVs were among the over 300 panels put up in the Cowichan Valley last year by the business.
Team member Kuan Foo said there has been more interest in solar options for residential and commercial buildings because of rising electricity costs.
“At the same time the cost of solar has gone down significantly and what we’re seeing now is that people are actually able to have a return on investment,” Foo said.
“This is a unique project because it is with a municipality and we’ve also done the Co-Op gas station on Bench Road and are starting to see farms become interested in this as well.”
In some areas of Canada solar generated electricity has reached grid-parity, meaning the price per kWh is the same or cheaper than electricity provided by utility companies such as BC Hydro.
Board Chair Jon Lefebure has over a dozen solar panels on his own home and is credited with initiating the CVRD’s look at a publicly backed solar project.
“This project demonstrates the CVRD’s commitment to our Strategic Energy Management Plan and shows leadership on adapting the risks associated with climate change,” he said.
“We hope this system will increase staff and the public’s knowledge about the benefits of this renewable energy technology.”