Photo contributedSolar panels can be roof mounted, or free standing like these.

Harnessing sun in Shuswap

New society forms to make solar energy more accessible to residents.

Being in favour of solar energy is not the same as using it.

A newly formed group would like to shine a light on the technology, making it easier for residents to understand and use.

“The people who have come together to do this have all made it clear we want it to be practical…, that we actually do something,” says Warren Bell, a member of the new Shuswap Solar Energy Society.

The society would like to set up a demonstration project that models the production and use of solar energy in public and private settings throughout the Shuswap. The plan includes acquiring land for a community-based solar array to generate electricity.

The idea started when Anne Morris of Kairos organized a session on renewable energy last year. The name of Michael Mehta, a professor at Thompson Rivers University, was mentioned and he was later brought in as a speaker.

He was very inspiring, says Bell, and a number of people signed up, wanting to do more.

Bell says participants were asked who would be willing to contribute $500 to $1,000 towards a solar energy supply for the community. About 30-or-so said yes.

Related link: Province provides funding for solar

Participants went away with a plan to gather information from various sources around the community and come back with what they’ve gleaned.

The core group of Morris, Bell, Hugh Tyson and Neil Caves will hold an initial meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 7 p.m., at the First United Church. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Bell says they’d like to gauge how widespread the interest in solar is, as well as hear what people have learned regarding solar energy in the community.

In some jurisdictions in California, he points out, solar-produced electricity can be purchased more cheaply than electricity from the standard grid.

He says using alternatives to damming rivers has become a necessity.

“The fossil fuel story is getting more tortuous all the time. There’s no question we need to do something about it. The best way is to use less energy, increase the efficiency of what you use in your home… LED lights alone, they reduce consumption considerably.”

Solar, wind and geo-thermal are the obvious energy alternatives, wherever conditions are right, he says.

Solar is the most constant.

“The only thing holding us back (in the province), as people from Stanford (University) have said, is political will.”

Bell also says more jobs are generated from renewable energy than through dams.

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