Project taps into vast po­ten­tial

The News (New Glasgow) - - OPINION -

There’s shin­ing po­ten­tial in a new pro­gram just an­nounced by Nova Sco­tia’s En­ergy Depart­ment. Just at the test­ing stage, the plan will see 18 ap­pli­cants that in­clude in­sti­tu­tions, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and com­mu­ni­ties in­stalling so­lar pan­els to gen­er­ate power for the elec­tri­cal grid.

It’s a source cer­tainly worth ex­plor­ing, and gen­er­ally un­der­used in the prov­ince, where cur­rently only one per cent of elec­tri­cal en­ergy comes from so­lar.

It’s also a wor­thy project when you con­sider the cri­tiques that of­ten ac­com­pany so­lar and winden­ergy ven­tures – for ex­am­ple, that gen­er­a­tion can vary day to day de­pend­ing on con­di­tions of the weather. All rel­a­tively speak­ing, that is, the sun’s power is still a con­stant.

But, again, tech­nol­ogy in these meth­ods con­tin­ues to im­prove and a pro­gram test­ing the po­ten­tial in a prov­ince is vi­tal to any progress to­ward de­creas­ing our de­pen­dence on en­ergy driven by fos­sil fuel con­sump­tion.

The pro­gram, an­nounced as part of the gov­ern­ment’s elec­tric­ity plan in 2015, will see uni­ver­si­ties, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, non-prof­its, char­i­ties, and Mi’kmaq com­mu­ni­ties sell­ing power to lo­cal grids. Prices will re­flect the cost of in­stalling the 330-watt pan­els – which, nat­u­rally, is a con­cern to cus­tomers of Nova Sco­tia Power. But the im­pact on ratepay­ers is capped at 0.1 per cent.

The At­lantic School of The­ol­ogy in Halifax has signed a 20-year deal to sell so­lar power gen­er­ated by 150 pan­els. It’s ex­pected to yield a re­turn to the school of about $10,000 an­nu­ally.

The pi­lot in this prov­ince fol­lows sim­i­lar ven­tures else­where. Peo­ple trav­el­ling in ru­ral ar­eas of On­tario in re­cent years might, for ex­am­ple, have no­ticed walls of so­lar pan­els here and there in farm­ing ar­eas, part of that prov­ince’s mi­cro-fit pro­gram. Al­berta has also be­gun a so­lar pro­gram.

Peter Craig, an of­fi­cial with the En­ergy Depart­ment, de­scribed the two-year pi­lot as a means of build­ing up the in­dus­try, get­ting peo­ple, com­mu­ni­ties and or­ga­ni­za­tions in­ter­ested, and mak­ing this source a piece of the en­ergy grid.

A typ­i­cal in­stal­la­tion spot might be, for ex­am­ple, on the roof of a pub­lic build­ing.

With pub­lic struc­tures through­out our com­mu­ni­ties and spa­ces here and there un­likely to be called into any other use, the po­ten­tial for in­creased in­stal­la­tions is good if this project yields promis­ing re­sults. This kind of ap­proach also teaches a lot about own­er­ship – in the sense that govern­ments and in­di­vid­u­als alike, lead­ers in in­dus­try and with in­sti­tu­tions dis­cuss the need for sus­tain­abil­ity and cleaner en­ergy sources. We all draw on an en­ergy sup­ply, and help­ing con­trib­ute to the sup­ply through such a project is a good il­lus­tra­tion – of both a vi­tal need and, through col­lec­tive ac­tion, ways the sys­tem can be im­proved.

We’ve seen im­prove­ments to this tech­nol­ogy over the years, and can ex­pect to see con­tin­u­ing im­prove­ment. This project is one way of in­ves­ti­gat­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties in the fu­ture since the source of this en­ergy is, in­deed, vast.

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