It may have been raining but that didn’t stop the City of Colwood from installing solar panels on the roof of the Colwood Fire Hall last Thursday.
An imposing 45 degree wall of solar panels took about two days for Terratek Energy Solutions employees to put up as a part of the Solar Colwood program. Both solar hot water panes and photovoltaic (PV) solar panels have been installed to help supplement the energy used by the hall.
Colwood Fire Captain Frank Gale said the fire department decided to get involved with the program to help offset the electrical costs of the building and because the federal funding was available. The panels are mainly intended to be a showcase to the community to promote the program.
“They’ll see what the panels look like and then downstairs we can show you what is involved for the average household,” Gale said. “So hopefully it’s a big promotion.”
In the fire hall itself there will be a electrical display that will monitor the hall’s energy use and broadcast that information to the internet.
The large rack for the panels had to be built because the station has a flat roof. Structural supports had to be installed and the whole design took into account wind and snow concerns. The system is also integrated with B.C. Hydro so that if it produces more energy then the hall needs, that excess can be sold back to the power corporation.
Landon Aldridge, co-owner of Terratek, doesn’t anticipate that happening with the fire hall, considering the amount of energy it uses, but said that on a residential home that would be possible. A similar system would contribute 30 to 40 per cent of an average household’s energy consumption for a year.
“On a typical residential house, with this system, yes, there would be instances where we would be going into selling mode,” Aldridge said.
The cost of installing the solar panels is being covered by grants from the federal government as part of the overall Solar Colwood project. About $7,000 worth of in-kind contributions are coming from the City. The energy consumption at the fire hall will be tracked so that the City can report on the outcomes.
Solar Colwood provides incentives for the hot water solar panels but not the PV panels. The cost of PV is still not financially viable given the low cost of energy. With rising energy costs, however, that gap may soon be bridged.
There will be a Solar Colwood information session on March 22 at Colwood City Hall at 7 p.m. for anyone interested to find out more about the program. Information can also be found at solarcolwood.com.