Solar Colwood under the magnifying glass

A full budget report for the Solar Colwood project has been released for to the public and some residents still have concerns.

A full budget report for Solar Colwood has been released for the first time to the public, but a few residents still have concerns over the viability of the initiative.

The report shows the total projected budget for the project at just over $12 million, over four years. Colwood is contributing 3.5 per cent of that budget, including $393,000 in-kind staff and councillor time and about $31,400 in HST.

Participating homeowners will end up contributing 46.5 per cent, and Natural Resources Canada will provide a 32.3 per cent, or $3.9 million, contribution.

The rest of the money will come from partners such as the provincial government and Royal Roads University, along with private businesses and the T’Sou-ke First Nation.

In the first three quarters of the 2011-2012 fiscal year a total of $607,267 was spent on the project, $3,255 in HST costs and more than $100,000 from in-kind contributions.

Most of the in-kind contributions are in the form of staff time and office space and supplies, along with costs associated with installing a solar thermal system at the Colwood fire hall.

Actual contributions for the first year of the program came in under budget for Colwood due to less interest from homeowners then expected.

The project is slated to help homeowners in Colwood install a total of 880 solar hot water systems and 120 ductless split heat pumps. In its first fiscal year, which ends March 31, there are so far 25 signed contracts for solar hot water and 53 for ductless heat pumps. Targets for the program were 50 and 60, respectively.

Colwood Coun. Judith Cullington said that the project is not where she would like to see it in terms of uptake so far. As a new concept for many people, she understands that it may take time to catch on.

“We hoped to be further ahead, but it’s like anything else. It’s brand new for a lot of people,” Cullington said. “It just doesn’t even cross their minds.”

At a March 6 committee of the whole meeting and at a strategic and financial planning committee on Tuesday, city councillors and citizen committee members heard the public’s concerns and attempted to provide answers and recommendations.

One concern that Cullington addressed was over the initial revelation of the project in January 2011. She explained that the announcement of the project was delayed because its federal partners, National Resources Canada, stipulated that it had to be the first agency to announce it.

Cullington also explained that the deal with the agency was built off an approved budget.

“There wasn’t an opportunity to put the whole thing out in front of the public,” she said.

Some members of the public questioned the level of resident input into the project’s budget, among other concerns. A package of six questions, mainly concerning budget and assessments, was presented to councillors.

Jim Belfry, who is both an author of the questions and a citizen member of Colwood’s financial planning committee, voted in favour of the committee’s actions related to the questions, which included advising council to gather data from other solar projects for background information.

“I’m pleased with the results of (the meeting),” Belfry said. “I think it’s the first time that a committee of council has questioned Solar Colwood in a bit of detail to try and address some of the concerns that are raised.”

Those recommendations will now go to council for consideration. For the full budget report and more information visit colwood.ca.

news@goldstreamgazette.com

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