A community-owned rooftop solar panel project is being proposed for the Northern Haida Gwaii Hospital and Health Centre. (Vancouver Renewable Energy Co-op photo)

Solar energy array proposed for Northern Haida Gwaii Hospital and Health Centre

Proposal for community-owned solar panels could reduce diesel fuel use by 30,000 liters per year

A nurse at the Northern Haida Gwaii Hospital and Health Centre is working on a proposed community-owned renewable energy project that if approved, could result in up to 30,000 liters of diesel fuel reduction per year.

In an Aug. 2 email to the Village of Masset, Marilyne Tovar said she has been working with Rob Baxter of the Vancouver Renewable Energy Co-op (VREC Solar) and its subsidiary SolShare Energy on a rooftop solar panel project proposal for the hospital.

According to the initial SolShare proposal, the preferred 30 to 130 kilowatt-hour project would be a grid-tied photovoltaic system under BC Hydro’s net-metering program, optimized to reduce second tier energy payments.

The optimal size will be determined if SolShare is allowed to evaluate the annual consumption and billing data for the hospital.

ALSO READ: Islands in the Rough: Making Haida Gwaii a role model for renewable energy

If the project proceeds, certified electrical contractor VREC Solar would be available to install or sub-contract installation of the solar energy array at no cost to the hospital upfront and sell power to the hospital at a lower rate than it is currently paying.

While the hospital would still be connected to the grid, the proposed project would offset a portion of its electricity use.

SolShare proposes selling the solar-generated electricity at $0.18 per kilowatt-hour, which would save the hospital more than 10 per cent compared to the current BC Hydro rate of $0.2096 per kilowatt-hour.

It would also have an annual impact of up to 120 megawatt hours of clean electricity — up to 50 tonnes of greenhouse gas emission reductions.

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Construction of the project is expected to cost $260,000, and would be paid for by the purchase ownership shares in the energy plant by local individuals and councils.

While priority would be given to locals, if not enough local funds are available, SolShare would facilitate funding from other individuals or co-operatives in B.C.

“Based on conversations with local residents and the feedback from public workshops we believe that there is a substantial interest in creating a local co-operative on Haida Gwaii that would own the system,” the proposal said. “Until the new co-op is created, SolShare is willing to manage the project and the share offering. Once the new co-op is created, SolShare would transfer all assets to the new organization.”

Baxter told the Observer the new co-op may choose its own share structure and dividend model, and grants are available for First Nation councils to own shares in the project.

If approved, he said the community-owned solar project would be the first of its kind in northern B.C.

ALSO READ: Haida Gwaii solar projects are looking up

Baxter presented the proposed system at the Haida Gwaii Renewable Energy Symposium in 2018.

He also said plans for both a larger solar farm of 1 megawatt or higher and the smaller system of up to 130 kilowatts were discussed at public information sessions in Masset and Skidegate last year, sponsored by the Council of the Haida Nation (CHN) and Swiilawiid Sustainability Society, “but many present felt it would be easier to start with a smaller rooftop system.”

ALSO READ: Haida Gwaii youth camps going solar

Tovar told the Observer she is looking forward to building momentum for the proposed project. She hopes to present more about the proposal as a delegate at a future Masset council meeting, to ask for a support statement for the project, as well as meet with other local governments, including the Old Massett Village Council and the CHN.

She said she already has the confirmed support of Swiilawiid, the Canadian Association of Nurses for the Environment and Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment B.C. chapter.

“I have a lot of informal support from staff at the hospital as well, and am just now asking them to let me know more formally if they would support such a project,” she said.

ALSO READ: Kay Centre set for solar panels

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