By Enrique Massot
The County News
As solar power generation becomes increasingly affordable, residents, farmers and business owners are turning to this renewable, non-polluting source, attendants at a recent workshop heard.
“Anywhere in Southern Alberta is good for solar,” said presenter David Kelly, of Sky Fire Energy.
Co-sponsored by Rocky View and Wheatland County, the Feb. 15 solar workshop attracted over 100 residents who crowded the Delacour Community Hall.
Greg Alexander and Carole Leroux, who run a custom made western hat business in southeast Rocky View, are now considering powering their home and small business with the sun’s energy.
“We will get an assessment done,” said Alexander, who estimates at six or seven kilowatts the amount of electricity needed to power the residence and the shop. “We came with some questions and found even more questions.”
Kelly said an assessment includes measuring roof or ground space available for panels, orientation, analyses shading and establishes potential locations for components such as inverters and main panel.
Leroux, who together with Alexander runs Hat Doctor, said while initial costs need to be considered, money is not the only consideration when it comes to reducing consumption of carbon-emitter fossil fuels.
“Would be nice to be greener,” she said.
Vince Young, who resides near Langdon, said “the jury is still out” in regards to the initial investment on solar-generation equipment.
Kelly said photovoltaic panels have become durable, with a life expectancy of at least 25 years—and prices have been continuously dropping.
A typical solar-generation unit consists of solar panels, generally installed on a roof, that convert sunlight into direct current (DC) power. Inverters convert DC to alternative current (AC) that can be used sur place or fed into the electrical distribution system.
Utility companies now supply bidirectional meters that measure kilowatts consumed from the grid as well as kilowatts fed to the grid, and kilowatts exported in that way are credited to the consumer at the same rate charged by the power companies.
Reverse meters eliminate the need for large capacity batteries, because the grid acts as a giant power storage device.
Government initiatives such as Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial program for farmers, cost-shares the price of solar systems.
Kelly gave a broad picture of the current state of solar-generation technologies, and said the 60 to 70-year proven technology has become “a great investment opportunity.”
He cited a 2 megawatt photovoltaic installation at Green Acres Colony in Bassano, a 175-kilowatt grid-tied installation in a poultry farm in Linden, and a 12.26 kilowatt grid-tied photovoltaic installation at a farm in Mountain View County among others.
Calgary has become one of the best jurisdictions for those wanting to install solar photovoltaic panels, said Kelly. Rocky View, he added, “is a bit more work but it’s not too bad. It requires building and electrical permits.”
Small residential projects take about five days to install, Kelly said.
Photovoltaic panels are estimated to degrade by one per cent per year, and produce at least 80 per cent of the initial generation after 20 years.
Marvin Jackson of Sundog Solar in Sundre installs a variety of sun-powered farm equipment.
Brad Sargeant with Off Grid Heating in Calgary has a wealth of information on government programs and inverters in its website.