Star­land ap­proves 10 more so­lar in­stal­la­tions

The Drumheller Mail - - FRONT PAGE - Patrick Ko­lafa file­photo

Star­land County con­tin­ues to lead the way with its farm so­lar ini­tia­tive and last week, its Mu­nic­i­pal Plan­ning Com­mis­sion ap­proved 10 so­lar in­stal­la­tions.

The county has been a pi­o­neer in the in­dus­try, first by adding the tech­nol­ogy to it own fa­cil­i­ties, and then work­ing on a tem­plate to fa­cil­i­tate farms and ranches to in­stall so­lar ar­rays to gen­er­ate power, off­set power bills and re­duce their en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact.

CAO Ross Rawlusyk said re­cently a num­ber of county res­i­dents were able to take ad­van­tage a pro­gram of­fered by En­max to fa­cil­i­tate the in­stal­la­tion of the ar­rays.

“We were in the right place at the right time and we were able to get a lot of those in­stal­la­tions,” said Rawlusyk.

Ac­cord­ing to Al Hamp­ton, one of the res­i­dents hav­ing an ar­ray in­stalled, about 19 in­stal­la­tions are hap­pen­ing in the county. He sees the po­ten­tial of the tech­nol­ogy.

“Num­ber one is you are cre­at­ing en­ergy from the sun, do­ing some­thing the­o­ret­i­cally is prob­a­bly a lit­tle more en­vi­ron­men­tally re­spon­si­ble,” he said. “You are cre­at­ing en­ergy and gen­er­at­ing it into the sys­tem and get­ting paid for the pro­duc­tion of it. So ac­tu­ally, over a set amount of time, there is a pay­back. Also the cost of en­ergy is likely to go up over time, and this should buf­fer that.”

Cur­rently, Rawlusyk ex-

plains the pro­grams are de­signed so that in­stal­la­tions are “right sized” for the user, pro­duc­ing enough en­ergy to off­set their us­age, but will not pro­vide a sub­stan­tial sur­plus to sell on to the grid. He hopes this will evolve.

“Any mar­ket needs def­i­ni­tion. You have to know what the rules are and you have to pre­dict with some cer­tainty to jus­tify your in­vest­ment what you are go­ing to get, whether it is power, or wheat for ex­am­ple. If that un­cer­tainty is too high, that is prob­a­bly a year you don’t seed wheat,” he said.

“My big­gest con­cern is that we have a fledg­ing so­lar in­dus­try in Al­berta, and the longer we wait to clar­ify th­ese rules the more dif­fi­cult it is to sus­tain those Al­berta busi­nesses. That could be my main con- cern, is we will lose the abil­ity to de­liver those pro­grams once the cer­tainty comes.”

Rawlusyk sees po­ten­tial in the tech­nol­ogy.

“We have been us­ing so­lar to re­duce our elec­tric charges for 10 years,” he said. “We don’t ex­pect it, on an av­er­age day, to cover all of our power re­quire­ments, it re­duces the amount of power we need to buy.”

Their pro­gram has ex­panded to other ap­pli­ca­tions be­yond the of­fice.

“We did have one of the first in Al­berta, ap­pli­ca­tion of so­lar for a pump house and it is work­ing fab­u­lously. In Ver­dant Val­ley we have a bat­tery based so­lar back up for a wa­ter sta­tion. It has been kick­ing in sev­eral times, and our staff doesn’t even know it is do­ing it. It has run the plant for as long as 10 hours with no cost to us,” he said.

Just as im­por­tant as adopt­ing new tech­nol­ogy is to re­duce the en­ergy that you use.

“There is a good gain from that and it is rel­a­tively low hang­ing fruit. It is rel­a­tively cheap com­pared to a so­lar in­stal­la­tion but there are many things you can do to take steps in that di­rec­tion.”

Last week the Star­land Mu­nic­i­pal Plan­ning Com­mis­sion ap­proved ap­pli­ca­tions for ten new farm based so­lar in­stal­la­tions.

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