Cranbrook seeking a proper place in the sun

City to become 33rd solar community in B.C.; special presentations to be held next week

Solar is a power source for the future, and not to be left behind, Cranbrook is becoming a solar community.

On Monday, Guy Dauncey, founder of the B.C. Sustainable Energy Association and communication director for SolarBC, will be in Cranbrook to give a presentation at the College of the Rockies on the future of solar power and ways Cranbrook can get involved.

Dauncey talked to the Townsman Wednesday about the potential for solar power and what’s holding solar back in B.C.

“Cranbrook is becoming the 33rd solar community in B.C.” he said. “I’ll be coming out and doing a 10 minute presentation to council, then a big public presentation on the future of solar.”

The designation of a solar community allows the city to help develop solar energy programs.

He described a solar revolution going on in the world. For instance, since the year 2000, there has been a 7,000 per cent increase in use of solar equipment, which he noted had its similarities with the rise of cell phones.

When compared to Germany, however, the onset of solar power generation in B.C. seems to be a slow process. When it comes to generation into energy, it is. That’s known as photovoltaic. He said this has mostly to do with the costs of power. In B.C. we pay on average eight cents per kilowatt/hour, while in Germany they pay around 30 cents per kw/h. The cost of solar power is comparable in both places, but the payback is much quicker in Germany.

“In places like Germany, they’re getting a payback that’s close to four times faster than here in B.C.,” he said. “The fact that we have very cheap hydro power is causing us to be one of the last to the global solar banquet.”

On the other hand, solar thermal, which uses the heat of the sun, rather than the light, is more feasible to implement, as it can be used to heat water for the shower or in some cases, your whole home.

“For solar voltaic, you need a global energy price of about 20-40 cents per kw/h for it to make sense financially,” he said. “You’re still paying twice or three times what you would for regular energy.”

Canadian Rockies International Airport recently had a solar hot water system installed on the roof of the main building.

“It uses the heat of the sun to preheat water that is otherwise heated by natural gas,” he said.

Other communities are installing solar-powered traffic lights, street lights, garbage compactors and solar-heated swimming pools.

Dauncey said in the meantime solar voltaic won’t hit mainstream affordability until 2027.

The public meeting is Monday, April 22 at 7 p.m. at the College of the Rockies.