The power of the sun... and the com­mu­nity

Antigo­nish co-op comes to Cape Bre­ton to ex­plain bulk so­lar en­ergy op­por­tu­ni­ties

The Victoria Standard - - Environment - LAKE AINSLIE

The Antigo­nish Com­mu­nity En­ergy Cooperative (ACE Co-op) will hold two in­for­ma­tion ses­sions on the Is­land. Lo­cal res­i­dents can learn about go­ing so­lar, group­buys, and much more at 7pm, Tuesday, February 21 at the Mc­connel/cen­tral Li­brary in Sydney, or at 7pm, Thurs­day, February 23 at the Lake Ainslie Fire Hall.

The Co-op made its first bulk so­lar pur­chase, or “group buy”. In and around Antigo­nish County this past sum­mer, from Pic­tou County to Cape Bre­ton, Co-op cus­tomers saw their rooftops trans­form into rows of shiny so­lar pan­els. Eigh­teen di­verse clients – rang­ing from pri­vate homes and mu­nic­i­pal fa­cil­i­ties, to a prom­i­nent lo­cal busi­ness and a faith group – took the plunge, for a com­bined group buy of over $376,000.

“That comes to 128.7 kw of new, re­new­able so­lar en­ergy for Nova Sco­tia, or the equiv­a­lent of tak­ing ap­prox­i­mately 103 met­ric tonnes of CO2 out of the air ev­ery year,” touts David Mor­gan, ACE Co-op Pres­i­dent. “Ev­ery so­lar panel that cit­i­zens in­stall means less fos­sil fu­els burned in our power plants and more money go­ing into the lo­cal econ­omy and help­ing cre­ate jobs right here in Nova Sco­tia.”

Ac­cord­ing to En­phase in­verter data avail­able on­line, this group buy dou­bled the amount of so­lar en­ergy pro­duc­tion in Antigo­nish County. Yet the Coop views this as just the be­gin­ning. In­dus­try watch­ers re­port that so­lar pan­els act as their own best ad­ver­tis­ing. “The num­ber one fac­tor in a de­ci­sion to switch to so­lar power is whether you know some­one with so­lar power,” notes Pa­trick Yancey, ACE Co-op Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Co­or­di­na­tor. “When peo­ple start see­ing pan­els on homes and busi­nesses in their neck of the woods, they think: ‘Hey, the tech­nol­ogy is here. I won­der what kind of sav­ings I can get.’”

The Co-op’s board is quick to lament that un­der our cur­rent sys­tem and poli­cies, so­lar is still in­ac­ces­si­ble to many. Heed­ing the adage that ‘if it isn't ac­ces­si­ble to the poor, it is nei­ther rad­i­cal nor revo­lu­tion­ary’, the Coop ap­plies a 2% levy on mem­ber pur­chases, with 75% go­ing to­wards poverty re­lief. In their first group buy, their ef­forts raised an im­pres­sive $7,641.28. The Coop will use the funds to pro­vide a so­lar panel sys­tem for a low-in­come hous­ing unit, and is sup­ple­ment­ing these funds with their own gofundme (­coop).

The Co-op has an­nounced their sec­ond group buy, clos­ing March 31st, 2017. With in­quiries pour­ing in from all over north­east­ern Nova Sco­tia, it al­ready prom­ises to be big­ger than the first. The Coop at­tributes their suc­cess to a tip­ping point in so­ci­ety, tech­nol­ogy and the en­vi­ron­ment. “Peo­ple are ready, the tech­nol­ogy is ready, and the planet is cer­tainly ready. It’s clear that so­lar’s time has come,” con­cludes Yancey.

The ACE Co-op ser­vices Antigo­nish, sur­round­ing coun­ties and all of Cape Bre­ton. In­ter­ested par­ties can go to www.ace­ and be­come lifetime Co-op mem­bers for just $5. Once you are a mem­ber, you can sign up for a free site as­sess­ment by an ap­proved in­staller. Af­ter hear­ing all the op­tions and de­cid­ing if a so­lar power sys­tem is right for you, you can re­serve your spot in the next group buy with a $500-de­posit. The Coop co­or­di­nates the group buy with sup­pli­ers and in­stall­ers. Fi­nanc­ing is avail­able through Eco Loans from the East Coast Credit Union. Af­ter the group buy closes, the pan­els start go­ing up and the juice starts flow­ing.

The Antigo­nish Com­mu­nity En­ergy Coop de­vel­oped out of two pub­lic en­ergy fo­rums in Antigo­nish in late 2014 and early 2015. It is now an of­fi­cially reg­is­tered, non-profit, cooperative busi­ness ded­i­cated to ac­cel­er­at­ing the lo­cal tran­si­tion to a sus­tain­able en­ergy econ­omy. The board is com­prised of sci­en­tists, en­gi­neers, lo­cal busi­ness own­ers and other com­mu­nity mem­bers. Mem­ber­ship is open to all; and board meet­ings are open to the pub­lic. Learn more at www.ace­; fol­low the Co-op on Face­book at face­book. com/antigo­nish­com­mu­ni­tyen­er­gy­coop. For fur­ther ques­tions or to get on our mail­ing list, con­tact mem­ber­ship li­ai­son Sarah Arm­strong at goso­lar.antigo­

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