Posted on Feb 13, 2018

Cortes-Vargas working with Strathcona County to investigate solar energy options

Sherwood Park News - February 13, 2018

Solar panels are a no–go for Sherwood Park’s Glen Allan Recreation Complex (GARC).

After more than a year of considering solar panels for some of Strathcona County's facilities — more specifically for GARC — the county has decided not to move forward with the project.

"In doing the business case analysis, the cost to purchase and have the solar installed showed no economic benefit," representatives from Strathcona County Communications told The News.

"Solar still tends to have a fairly long pay-back (period) compared to other options — LED lighting upgrades (and) lamp replacement costs compared to the electrical savings of a solar project, for example."

Over the last number of years, Strathcona County Facility Services has been concentrating on reducing its local environmental footprint by purchasing and installing energy–efficiency systems throughout the county, including high–efficiency boilers, lighting and other such initiatives.

The decision against moving forward with solar panel installation at GARC comes as no surprise when looking back on Facility Services director Diehl Townsley’s comments to council members more than a year ago, at which time he stated: "When we take a look at our alternative energy systems like solar and others, we have always struggled with the price in comparison to other options... One of the challenges we always see for alternative energy is it’s still fairly pricey compared to other options out there today."

At the time, GARC was being considered for 15 kilowatts of solar technology on the roof of the new portion of the building, which would have generated 12,000 to 13,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. However, the cost had proven to be unsustainable, even with the inclusion of provincial solar rebate programs, such as the Alberta Municipal Solar Program, the Non-Profit Energy Efficiency Transition Program and the Alberta Solar Program.

However, Strathcona MLA Estefania Cortes-Vargas noted she is looking forward to working with Strathcona County “on a plan that works for them.”

“There are many ways to make our facilities energy-efficient,” she said on Thursday. “The Business, Non-Profit and Institutional Energy Savings Program offers incentives to encourage communities like Strathcona County to choose high-efficiency products. Between the Alberta Municipal Solar Program and the On-Farm Solar PV Program, people across the province have a number of excellent opportunities to generate their own electricity.

“This means lower costs, reduced emissions and hundreds of jobs in the renewably energy sector. I’m very pleased that Elk Island Public Schools are planning to install solar panels in a new school that is being built. It’s just another example of Albertans showing leadership on green energy initiatives.”

Much to the tune of GARC, Sherwood Park’s Emerald Hills Leisure Centre was also considered for solar panels, as well as combined heat and power — another alternative energy project that won’t come to fruition.

According to Brian Wilson, manager of county facility capital projects, placing solar panels on the Emerald Hills facility simply wouldn’t make sense.

"The orientation of the building and the roof... it didn't make solar very economical at the time,” he explained. “The orientation is more east and south, and the slope of the roof and the way it works for drainage."

Despite the decision against installing solar panels, Wilson added energy-efficient initiatives are already in place at the Emerald Hills Leisure Centre, including LED lighting throughout the building.

As outlined in the county's Municipal Sustainable Building Policy, Facility Services continues to explore ways to make county facilities more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

kmartell@postmedia.com