Starland approves 10 more solar installations
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.