Even as Haida Gwaii got another rare snowfall last week, Skidegate councillors were hoping the Kay Centre roof will soon catch something else — solar power.
After replacing four sections of roof, an array of solar panels will be installed above a long hallway at the Haida Heritage Centre at Kay Llnagaay.
“Everything’s approved, we’re just waiting for a weather window to install,” says Billy Yovanovich, chief councillor for Skidegate.
With panels funded by Indigenous and Northern Affairs and a roof replacement by Gwaii Trust, installers W Dusk Energy Group expect the new solar system to reduce the Kay Centre’s power consumption by about 10 per cent.
Power bills are the largest expense at the Kay, which already has a ground-based geothermal heating system.
“We’re really keen to get it going,” said Yovanovich.
“There’s quite a move on energy now — we’re doing all we can.”
Skidegate Band Council and BC Hydro are now compiling data on the heat pumps that were recently installed in homes throughout the village to replace wood and oil systems for primary heat.
What began as a project to help elders reduce their heating bills grew to include every household who wanted to switch.
“That was quite a project,” said Yovanovich.
“It gave us a lot of exposure, and now a lot more people are interested in working with us.”
Solar hot water may be next, perhaps starting with a couple of pilot installations in homes with good exposure to sun — a relatively easy find in south-facing Skidegate.
Given the declining cost of solar panels, Yovanovich said it might be possible to set up a free-standing array that sends power to the grid under an Independent Power Producers contract with BC Hydro.
“They’re just re-negotiating contracts now to allow for little IPPs,” he said, noting that solar panel costs are getting low enough that the band council may be able to fund the panels by borrowing money and amortizing the cost like a mortgage.
“Solar seems to be one of the best routes for us,” he said.
“We don’t have excessive amounts of sunshine, but we always get some.”