Solar Project

The Free Store/Recycling Depot Solar Project

HIRRA was pleased to collaborate with the Hornby Island Community Economic Enhancement Corporation (HICEEC) in 2016 to apply for and receive a grant from the Comox Valley Regional District’s Community Works Funding (Gas Tax) for a demonstration grid-tied solar panel project.

A total of 35 solar panels were installed on the Free Store’s south-facing roof by GabEnergy a non-profit group based on Gabriola Island. The Recycling Committee also organized some educational presentations on solar installation. An educational sign, painted by an island artist, was installed at the Free Store so visitors can learn more about the project and see how the panels are performing on a weekly basis.

Track our Solar Panels

To check how the solar panels installed at the Depot are performing in real-time, visit the Enphase Energy tracking website.

Text of Jan Kennedy’s talk presented at a New Horizons Literary Lunch in February 2017:

HORNBY ISLAND SOLAR DEMONSTRATION PROJECT ~ 2016

 This past June (2016), a 28 panel solar array was installed on the south-facing (back) roof of our Free Store.  Another 7 panels will be installed in February, bringing the array up to 35 panels.  

To date, the solar panel array of 28 panels has produced almost 4 mega watt hours of electricity since the June installation.  The solar installation has, in fact, supplied all the electricity needed for the Depot from June through November of 2016! 

HOW and WHY:

Under their Transportation and Energy initiative, mandated by the Hornby Vision Process,  HICEEC is working to move Hornby to a post-carbon economy.  The steering group wanted to implement a concrete project in year 1 that set a new tone for how we think about a post-carbon infrastructure, while building local knowledge, resilience, and economic benefits.

As an example:  According to MIT Technology Review, Germany, the 4th largest economy in the world, is now the world’s largest solar market.  The latitude of Germany is between 48 degrees and 54 degrees.  The latitude of Vancouver Island is between 48 degrees and 51 degrees.  In 2015, renewables accounted for 1/3 of the electricity consumed in Germany.  Germany’s carbon emissions in 2014 were 27% lower than 1990 levels.

HICEEC / HIRRA applied to the Comox Valley Regional District for Community Works / Gas Tax funding for the project.  A feasibility study and system design was completed by Ian Emberton, a local electrician.  The project was then approved by the CVRD board in November 2015.

HICEEC AND HIRRA looked at several different commercial buildings on Hornby for the solar demonstration project and selected the Free Store roof as the best location.

 The purpose of this solar demonstration project is to educate residents about the performance and financial cost/reward of a publicly visible solar project on Hornby.  This Project is expected to reduce the Recycling Depot’s energy bill by at least half over the 30 year demonstration timeline.

 A further goal of the Solar Project is to educate homeowners about opportunities for local energy production.

 Under the agreement, HIRRA  owns, and insures, the solar panels and components, which are installed on the CVRD-owned building. The solar panels cover almost the entire south-facing roof, and will produce about 7200 kwh per year; known as a 7kw system.

 Stan Combs produced a spreadsheet for looking at the financial efficiency of the proposed system.  He used conservative production and financial projections. This model is available and can be used for research into other public or private solar projects on the island.

 The cost of the Project was $32,000.  This cost included the HICEEC Feasibility Study and an informational sign which will be installed up at the Recycling Depot.

 Tenders were requested for the installation of the solar panels, and of the  4 companies that applied, GabEnergy, a non-profit society located on Gabriola Island was chosen.  GabEnergy has done about 100 installations on the Gulf Islands, is a non-profit company, and is passionate about sharing what they have learned as well as involving and training local people.  They use very good quality materials and their price was exceedingly competitive.

Our Solar System consisting of 35 solar panels, each with it’s own micro-inverter is “grid-tied”, which means that it feeds directly into the BC Hydro grid and does not require any batteries for storage.

 The Warranty, which is third-party insured, is for 25 years.  The Silicon cells used were made in Germany and assembled in Canada.

 As a part of the Project, Dave Neads of GabEnergy, taught a one-day Solar Workshop about how to ascertain if your home would be a good candidate for solar panel installation.  The workshop was advertised on Hornby for the reasonable cost of $25, and was attended by 10 Hornby residents.

Dave Neads put together a great little  booklet, “BASIC SOLAR”,  which is open-source and can easily be photocopied for anyone that is interested.

He makes the point that the Micro Inverters are “really the heart of the revolution in solar design. They transform the DC power coming from the module into AC power that is needed in the home.  ……they do it in such a way that it is fully compatible with the BC Hydro grid.   ……..they allow an array that is much more tolerant of shading”,  as each module, with it’s own micro inverter, functions independently, in the array.   

Dave also set up a website which you can use to follow the real-time energy production of our system.  At enlighten.enphaseenergy.com you will see there the amount of energy being created, and used, as you watch.

Now, I would like to invite each of you to consider “Conservation of Energy” as this can be seen as our FIRST SOURCE of renewal energy. Reducing your use of electricity can be very helpful before you purchase and set up a solar array for your home.

In 2014, BC Government and BC Hydro announced a 28 per cent electricity rate hike  to take place over five years, beginning with a nine per cent jump in  2014.  After this set of increases is completed in 2019, there will be another announcement as to whether more increases will be put in place.

Looking closely at our own use of energy has the immediate benefit of reducing your BC Hydro bill – very lucrative as the Hydro rates are continuing to rise.

I decided last November to do this for our home in Sandpiper.  We used a very good book that I found in our local library.  “THE HOME ENERGY DIET”, by Paul Scheckel, is available at our Library, and is a very user-friendly guide to how to save money by making your home Energy Smart.  It is very comprehensive and easy to use.

  • We checked for doors and windows for heat loss and replaced or installed weather stripping.
  • We flushed our Hot Water tank and played with the setting till we had the lowest setting that could work for us.
  • We replaced all our light bulbs with LED bulbs (soft/warm option) meaning we now use about 1/6th of the energy we were using for light!
  • We discussed where we might conveniently locate a clothes drying rack. We found a perfect spot in the landing at the top of the stairs, that we BOTH like to use. A dryer load of laundry takes only about 3 hours to dry, FOR FREE!

It was fun, it feels good, we pay less to BC Hydro, and if we decide to install solar panels, we know we have brought our consumption down and will need fewer panels (less cost!) to meet our electricity needs.

Some other excellent resources are:

“CATCHING THE SUN” is a 2015 documentary, available on Netflix, takes a diverse look at the transition to solar power.  It speaks directly to the false idea that clean energy, such as solar or wind, requires sacrificing economic prosperity.

“THE LEAP” by Chris Turner, available at our Library, is well-written, well-researched, interesting and informative about the emerging world of cleantech possibility.  Definitely  a “Good News” book!                          

Take-aways:

  • “BASIC SOLAR – DESIGN AND INSTALL YOUR OWN SOLAR ARRAY” booklet , by Dave Neads, of GabEnergy, Gabriola, BC.  This Booklet is open-source and can be photocopied.
  • To follow the real-time energy production of the solar array on the HI Free Store roof, go to enlighten.enphaseenergy.com.  You will see there the amount of energy being created, and used, as you watch.
  • “CATCHING THE SUN” is a 2015 documentary, available on Netflix, takes a diverse look at the transition to solar power.  It speaks directly to the false idea that clean energy, such as solar or wind, requires sacrificing economic prosperity.
  • “THE HOME ENERGY DIET”, by Paul Scheckel, is available at our Library, and is a very user-friendly guide to how to save money by making your home Energy Smart. It is very comprehensive and easy to use.
  • “THE LEAP” by Chris Turner, is available at our Library, well-written, well-researched, interesting and informative about the emerging world of cleantech possibility. A “Good News” book!