Crews have been working to install a 25,000-watt solar panel system on the roof of Torquay Elementary School in Saanich since late November. (Photos courtesy of Lisa McPhail)

Crews have been working to install a 25,000-watt solar panel system on the roof of Torquay Elementary School in Saanich since late November. (Photos courtesy of Lisa McPhail)

$60K solar panel installation begins at Saanich elementary school

Panels to reduce Torquay elementary’s footprint, provide learning opportunities, board chair says

A Saanich elementary school is getting an electrifying new upgrade as the Greater Victoria School District (SD61) experiments with implementing green energy technology.

In late November, crews began installing a 25,000-watt solar panel system on the roof of Torquay Elementary School in Gordon Head and work will continue through December.

The system – which includes solar panels, a quad microinverter and an energy communication unit – will be connected to the grid and will bring the elementary school one step closer to net-zero energy-use, said SD61 board chair Jordan Watters.

Torquay Elementary is the district’s first K-Grade 5 school to get a solar panel system and the second school overall as Reynolds Secondary School already has solar panels – won through an environmental grant in 2009.

The solar panels have created “a lot of buzz for students and teachers,” Watters said. Once the installation is complete, teachers will be able to log into the system to see how much energy is being created and used by the school providing “engagement opportunities” for students.

Eventually, the district hopes to add more solar panels to Torquay elementary to bring the school’s energy consumption to net-zero but the technology is expensive so investments are being made incrementally.

“We’ve got to start somewhere,” Watters said, adding that long-term financial planning is key when making sustainability plans – Torquay’s new solar panel system was budgeted for the year before. According to SD61 spokesperson Lisa McPhail, the installation cost approximately $60,000.

The initial cost can be high but the savings down the road and the impacts on the planet are worth it, Watters said.

With two of the district’s 47 schools harnessing solar power and collecting data to guide future projects, Watters feels they’re off to a good start and demonstrating sustainability as a priority for SD61.


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