Workers with High Tide Energy Inc. of Victoria install banks of solar panels on the roof of the Town of Sidney’s public works building. The panels are expected to generate enough energy to power 3.9 average households. (Steven Heywood/News Staff)

Sidney tapping into solar energy

Town installs 132 solar panels on roof of its public works building

Sidney gets enough sunny days throughout the year that it was high time that sunshine was put to good use.

That was part of the thinking behind the Town of Sidney’s last project to install 132 solar panels on top of its main public works building. Work started in installing a series of solar panel arrays on the roof late last month and the electricity is expected to start flowing on March 10.

Sidney’s Director of Development Services, Engineering, Parks & Public Works Tim Tanton says the Town hired consulting first Carmanah Technologies to complete a feasibility study back in April 2016. The municipal council approved the project and had included it in its 2017 financial plan.

At a cost of $120,000, Sidney hired High Tide Energy Inc. of Victoria to install the panels and a grid tie-in system at the public works building. It’s a 30 kilowatt system, capable of producing in the neighbourhood of 42,000 kilowatts a year, or enough energy to power 3.9 average Sidney households.

Tanton said that will definitely make a dent on the municipality’s overall electricity costs.

According to High Tide owner Josh Shepherd the system will allow excess power generated by the system, to essentially be sold back to BC Hydro.

He said whatever the public works yard doesn’t use in power on those sunny days in the summer, can be sold back to the power grid — or at least rolled into savings on the power bill.

He explained that the system they install, both commercially and in residential homes, allows credits for extra power generated to roll onto people’s monthly Hydro bills. In that way, people can see just how much energy they’re using — and how much excess power has gone back into the grid.

This is High Tide’s first foray into municipal contract work, Shepherd said, but they have been working with cities like Victoria and Vancouver on other solar projects, in addition to their regular work helping residential homeowners go solar.

“We’re at the point now where … it’s now at a reasonable rate,” Sheppherd said. “It’s at around three dollars per watt now and that’s something that could be paid off in 10 to 15 years, whereas five or ten years ago, you were looking at five to ten dollars per watt, or 20 to 25 years.”

The solar modules installed on top of the public works roof are smart units, Shepherd said. Through an app, he said, people can check their output, if teach one is working, or how much energy they are producing at any given time. Even if they need cleaning.

“Keep them clean and they’ll keep working.”

Tanton said they system should get 30 years out of it, before components need replacing.

Tanton added this is a pilot project for the Town of Sidney. If it works (which he and Shepherd had every confidence it would) they could look at the municipalities’ many other roofs as potential locations for additional solar panels.

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