Solar Power Can Be a Community Effort
In Edmonton, almost every neighbourhood has a community league. These locally elected boards of community volunteers do the work of running facilities and programs and engaging in civic issues. There are 158 such leagues in the city. It’s the most grassroots level of representation we have and these dedicated volunteers drive the communities’ agenda.
When the Evansdale Community League started a big infrastructure refurbishment project, it raised $800,000 to repave the ball hockey and basketball courts, install a new outdoor hockey rink and build an accompanying winter sports facility. As part of that project it also installed super-efficient LED rink lights and two LED parking lot lights. The icing on the cake: a 13.6 kilowatt solar system cost only $43,500 to install.
Gordon Howell is the electrical engineer who designed the system. By his calculations, this project will generate about half of the electricity used over the course of a year.
“Over the longer term, it’s a phenomenal investment,” says Howell. Making the decision even easier was that the City of Edmonton and the government of Alberta covered 85 per cent of the upfront costs with an infrastructure grant. With that, the solar project has a simple payback of four to five years, depending on the price of electricity. The final cost of the system came in at $3.20 per installed watt.
"Each of these [projects] feels like a small piece of the puzzle, but when you add them up, it’s the only way you actually get any real change"
“All the money that you save in the meantime [with solar], you can put towards community sports programs and the like,” says Howell.
Although it’s a small project, both the LEDs and solar system tie into the City of Edmonton’s community energy transition plan. The City announced recently that it wants 100 percent of Edmonton’s electricity generated from renewable sources by 2030. Community league roofs are a great place to start.
Ben Henderson is an Edmonton city councilor. He supported the energy transition plan and considers projects like this to be crucial to achieving those goals.
“Each of these [projects] feels like a small piece of the puzzle, but when you add them up, it’s the only way you actually get any real change,” says Henderson.
“Our energy transition strategy is about two things. It’s about how we can up our game and show leadership in terms of our own practice, but it’s also creating incentives that make it easier for businesses, for [community] leagues, for all sorts of non-profit groups, and for individuals on their own houses to be able to step up as well and take away some the real or imagined barriers that are stopping people from making those choices.”