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Colwood Residents Keen on Going Solar

Goldstream News Gazette, February 25, 2011

Colwood Residents Keen on Going Solar
A solar panel being installed for hot water heating on one of 37 homes on the T'Sou-ke First Nation reserve, helping bring down the band's energy consumption by 30 per cent.
Sam Van Schie

Colwood is well on it's way to finding the first batch of residents that want to start using solar energy in their homes.

In the month since the City announced its Solar Colwood initiative, nearly 100 people have signed up online for more information about home retrofits. The project, supported by a $3.9 million federal clean energy grant, will offer financial incentive for homeowners to have solar panels on their roof heating their household water.

The first 10 homes retrofitted will be given $3,800 towards the costs, and the next 200 will get $3,000. Coun. Judith Cullington said the first 10 to receive new water heaters will be selected by lottery after the project's official launch in May.

"Everyone who has signed up so far will have an equal chance of getting the greater incentive if their homes qualify," Cullington said, noting that a home must have a south-facing roof that receives sunlight from 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to take part in the program.

J Scott of Illuminate Solar in Langford said there is a common misconception that B.C. doesn't get enough sun to support solar energy.

"It can be cloudy and the rays of the sun still get through and can still be captured by a solar panel," she said, pointing out that Victoria actually receives more sun than Berlin, Germany, the current world leader in solar energy.

When a solar hot water heater is installed in a home, it runs alongside the existing water heater, so the original heater can still be used at times when there isn't enough sun.

"You never need to worry about running out of hot water," Scott said. "You can get the energy off the grid when you need to, but most of the time you'll be using the sun's free energy."

There are many different types solar hot water heaters - some better than others. To make it easier for residents the City is pre-screening heating systems and installers. A project co-ordinator will be hired to walk interested homeowners through the process of choosing the right model for them.

"We want to make it as easy and appealing as possible for people," Cullington said. "If they've been thinking about retrofitting their home, this is the time to do it."

Unlike many green technologies that are constantly improving and getting cheaper, Scott said solar hot water systems are a relatively stable technology. They cost $8,000 to $10,000 to install (before discounts) and are 80 per cent efficient in transferring solar energy into a home's water heating system. Typically it takes five to 10 years the installation cost to be recouped in energy savings.

"It's proven technology that's been around long enough that it isn't really changing much these days," Scott said. "They've been using them in Europe for 50 years."

Cindy Moyer of Climate Action West Shore has been distributing information about Solar Colwood at various events.

"There seems to be a lot of enthusiasm," Moyer said. "People are glad to live in Colwood again. We'll be an example to the rest of the province and the country."

Besides helping put 1,000 solar hot water heaters in homes, Solar Colwood will fund energy upgrades at the Colwood fire hall and installation of rapid charging stations for electric cars. It will also contribute to making 10 residential units in the future Colwood Corners development carbon neutral.

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