Big Lakes sees light in solar energy

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Big Lakes County will consider solar panels in some of its buildings in 2020 with support from a special grant.

At a special budget meeting Dec. 16, county council approved a recommendation to include $524,513 in the 2020 interim capital budget to install solar panels in the county main office and public works shop in High Prairie.

The project would go ahead only if the county is awarded a federal Municipal Climate Change Action Centre municipal solar grant, sustainability officer Zach Thompson says in a report to council.

“We’re committed to reduce emissions by 25 per cent in the next 10 years,” Reeve Richard Simard says.

At its regular meeting Aug. 28, county council set a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent below the GHG emissions inventory levels by the year 2028.

“We selected that option because we want to see how efficient and cost-efficient solar will be in a small-scale project,” Simard says.

“With all the capital budget cuts, it was the most realistic option.

“We have to think now of ways to reduce emissions and save in the long term.”

Thompson predicts that option could save the county energy costs estimated up to $342,235 over 30 years.

Council was unable to come to a consensus on an option at its regular meeting Dec. 11 after the issue was discussed for 50 minutes.

Thompson presented two other larger options.

He recommended $996,028 in the 2020 capital budget to install solar panels in the county main office and public works shop in High Prairie and the Faust water treatment plant.

The time and place is right for the county to invest in solar energy, he says.

“It’s a source of revenue,” Thompson says.

“We get more sunlight than anywhere else in Canada, so why not use it.”

He says northern Alberta municipalities in Peace River, Grande Prairie and Barrhead are investing in solar energy.

The funding program provides a grant of 60 cents per watt of solar installed up to 30 per cent of total cost.

“As first-time applicants, we will also receive a first-time applicant bonus of 25 cents per watt,” Thompson says.

“This will significantly reduce the cost of installing solar panels.”

Thompson recommended a target of 20 per cent for the county as a member of the federal Partners for Climate Protection program.

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