Powerful Incentives

The ATCO technician was confused. Normally reading meters is the simple part of the job, but this one seemed to be running, well, backwards. Time to call in the supervisor. Now there were two of them scratching their heads, and it wasn’t until they looked up that it all became clear.

This is how I imagine that first meter check went after the new solar panels were hooked up at the Lorne Mountain Community Centre (LMCC).

The 30-panel setup that now graces the pavilion at the LMCC is the brainchild of Al Foster, who twigged onto the potential of solar power as a way of offsetting operating costs for the centre two years ago.

At the time he was a councillor on Mount Lorne’s Local Advisory Council, and came up with the idea of installing solar panels at the two main fulcrums of the Mount Lorne social scene: the community centre and the Transformation Station (still affectionately known as the Mile 9 Dump – these solar panels are pending).

Foster knew what he was getting into, having built an extensive solar setup on his own property two-and-a-half years ago. That was back when the Yukon Government’s micro-generation incentive program was just getting going. He is an adamant proponent of volunteerism, reminding others in the community, “that they will be amazed at what they can accomplish.”

He certainly walks the walk.

The array at the community centre was installed by Sow’s Ear Renewable Energy, a local workers’ cooperative, in March of this year. It should produce around 7.8 kilowatts of power when the sun is shining, and for the less numerically inclined, here’s a reference you can sink your teeth into: if you make toast five days a week you might use 4 kWh in a month, or 48 kWh in a year. The LMCC array could produce 8,244 kWh of energy per year. That’s a lot of toast.

Whenever the production exceeds the demand at the community centre, the bi-directional meter installed by ATCO runs backwards as power flows back to the grid – if it ever happened to come out in the negative the power bill would be a power credit!

As of April, the Yukon Government says the micro-generation program had 26 approved applications, with five to 10 in the works. They say interest is high, and I imagine it will only increase as more projects come online and visible. For more information on the program, visit www.energy.gov.yk.ca/microgeneration.

If you need inspiration, or a break from cute cat videos, wander over to Mount Lorne’s website at www.MountLorne.yk.net and click on “Solar Project.”  The installation’s monitoring equipment provides a different kind of feedback to the community, allowing anyone with an internet connection to see what the system is producing in real time.

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