Edward Hill/News staff Colwood Coun. Judith Cullington holds a solar panel

Colwood becomes a ‘solar city’

  • Jan. 24, 2011 7:00 a.m.

Feds grant $3.9 million for home solar retrofits

Colwood is aiming to help 1,000 residents install solar hot water heaters in their homes after receiving a $3.9 million federal clean energy grant.

Coun. Judith Cullington applied for the grant on behalf of Colwood fall 2009. Early last year she heard the initial bid had been unsuccessful.

Since then the project remained “B-listed” to be considered in future waves of funding. On Monday it was finally at the top of the pile and the City gladly accepted the grant.

Federal minister of state Gary Lunn made the announcement to a crowd of about 75 people squeezed inside the museum at the Colwood fire hall.

Colwood’s application stood out because of its focus on individual consumers, he said.

“We can criticize big industry for producing oil and gas and other types of energy, but ultimately it’s you and I that use the product,” Lunn said. “At the end of the day it’s us as consumers who need to change our ways.”

The grant will be divided among several different projects and used to leverage additional funds. The bulk of the money will go to incentives for retrofitting homes with solar hot water systems

Typically, solar systems cost $8,000 to $10,000, but the federal money will offset about one-third of that. Incentives will be available for the next three years, with higher payouts for early entrants.

The first 10 homes retrofitted will be given $3,800 towards the retrofitting costs, and the next 100 will get $3,000.

Homeowners will recoup their investment with energy cost savings in five to 10 years, Cullington estimated.

“In our grandparents’ days, everybody wanted a chimney on the roof as a cheap and efficient way to produce energy,” she said. “Now everybody is going to want a solar panel for the same reason.”

For residents whose homes don’t receive enough direct sunlight for solar panels to be viable, other emerging technologies will be available, such as ductless split heat pumps and energy-tracking smart meters.

“We’ll have Royal Roads University students involved with tracking the energy savings that result from each technology,” said Mayor David Saunders. “We want Colwood to be a learning community, and one other places will see as a model of success.”

Colwood Fire Rescue is installing $40,000 in solar energy systems to reduce the department’s use of natural gas at the fire hall.

That system will be on display for the public to view if they are considering installing something similar in their home. The fire hall will be fitted with a solar hot water system, a smart meter and a solar photovoltaic (PV) roof panel, which will sell excess energy back into the grid.

“We’re glad to showcase the new technology and be an example to others,” said Colwood fire Chief Russ Cameron.

Cullington stressed Colwood’s clean energy program will not come out of local taxpayer pockets. The grant will support city hall staff time used to administer the program as well as the cost to hire a project co-ordinator.

“This is not coming out of Colwood property taxes,” she said. “But what will happen is a huge economic benefit.”

Some of the grant money will also help offset the cost of League Assets developing 10 residential units within a 70-unit, five-story building at Colwood Corners. The units are slated to be “net zero” in their energy consumption, meaning that over the course of the year, the energy the units use will be matched by the amount of power generated through PV panels.

Finally, the grant will fund the installation of several 40 ampere rapid charging stations for electric cars in Colwood.

Saunders said this will help create a “green corridor” for people driving electric cars, which are expected to become commercially available in Canada in 2012, with some prototypes available sooner.

“Another big part of this is the jobs it will create in our community,” Saunders said.

Eight to 12 full-time installers are expected to be needed to retrofit homes and a project co-ordinator will also be hired as a point-person for people interested in improving the energy efficiency of their homes.

To learn more about installing a solar hot water heater in your home, visit www.solarcolwood.ca or call Colwood city hall at 250-478-5999. The program is open to Colwood residents only.

news@goldstreamgazette.com

Seeking the sun

A suitable home for solar hot water requires:

-At least six square metres of south-facing roof space.

-No trees or neighbouring buildings shading that portion of roof between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

-A building permit from the municipality (Colwood will offer 50 per cent off building permits for solar installations).

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