The sun has been harnessed to power the Forest Grove and District Community Centre.
Last month the Cariboo Regional District completed its latest solar panel installation project in Forest Grove. The CRD’s community services manager Darron Campbell said it is part of a larger push to install solar panels on community halls and buildings throughout the Cariboo region.
“We have been doing several solar projects like the one at the South Cariboo Rec. Centre in 100 Mile,” Campbell said. “We were also looking at that opportunity for other facilities, especially ones that do tend to use a lot of electricity.”
Campbell said Forest Grove was selected because of the ice machine the Forest Grove Curling Club has installed in the community centre. During the winter he said it uses a lot of power and the Forest Grove and District Rec. Society wanted to offset this cost.
The solar panels were installed by Primal Electric in September and cost $60,000. Campbell said it is a 20-kilowatt system, a fifth of the size of the South Cariboo Rec. Centre’s system.
“They try to size it so it’s appropriate to the needs of the building. If you have more space you can install more panels,” Campbell said.
The recreation society’s treasurer, Sylvia Griffith, said time will tell how much difference the 54 solar panels will make. Griffith said the ice plant was turned on two weeks ago and they could already see the hydro bill jumping.
“It takes a lot of power to get started and keep it going,” Griffith said. “I think it’s great to try this out and see how it works.”
In the next few weeks, Griffith said the society plans to monitor how much power the panels are producing. She said they will also have to find someone to climb up onto the roof whenever it snows to clear the panels using a leaf blower.
“I’m not sure who’s going to do that lovely job,” Griffith said.
Margo Wagner, CRD Director for Area H said she welcomes the investment into her community. Wagner said it is good that they’re utilizing community funds drawn from the gas tax to invest in green initiatives.
“Forest Grove is one of many halls in the CRD that will end up with solar panels and anything we can do to offset some of the expensive electrical costs that a particular hall incurs is a bonus to everybody,” Wagner said.
Any excess power generated by the solar panels during the summer, when the ice plant isn’t running, will be funneled back into the grid. Wagner said B.C. Hydro will give the community a credit for this extra power.
Wagner said the CRD’s focus remains on installing solar panels on community halls. McLeese Lake, Big Lake and Horsefly are all top candidates for one of these projects. In the future, however, she said she would like to see solar panels installed at local refuse sites to help address the challenges of connecting them to the power grid.
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Campbell said every solar panel system the CRD funds should pay for itself within a decade and have a life expectancy of 40 years. As a capital investment, he said they make sense, especially after the CRD promoted the use of LED light bulbs, more efficient furnaces and better insulation.
“The CRD has been engaged in energy efficiency projects for many years,” Campbell said. “I think solar panel technology has taken a while to come around. We’ve done assessments of it in the past and the cost and life expectancy of the stations wasn’t quite there but now that’s changed with improvements in technology. I’m hoping to do at least two or three solar installation projects a year for the next few years.”