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Solar Project Creates New Energy at Selkirk College

Selkirk College maintenance crew members work on the final pieces of the installation of the 275 solar panels that are now operating on the main building at the Castlegar Campus. The panels are part of the college’s overall sustainability efforts.

The roof of Selkirk College’s main building on the Castlegar Campus has been transformed as the regional post-secondary focuses on a future less reliant on non-renewable energy sources.

In October, the college installed a solar array on the roof of the library that includes 275 panels with the capacity to produce an estimated 112,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. Installed by Cumberland-based Hakai Energy Solutions over a two-week period, the panels will help the college power lights, computers and equipment as it continues to take the lead in environmental sustainability.

“We took on a solar project substantial enough to really showcase what’s possible and to take a solid step towards utilizing more renewable energy technologies,” says Selkirk College’s Facilities Project Manager Mike Giesler. “Solar has been around for a long time, but it has been cost prohibitive for the most part. The costs are starting to drop, so it has become more viable for institutions such as ours.”

As a public sector organization in British Columbia, Selkirk College reports its greenhouse gas emissions to the provincial government and pays an annual carbon tax on these figures. The college then receives Carbon Neutral Capital Funding to put towards projects that reduce emissions. The provincial funding source was an important part of making the project feasible.

The cost of the project was $190,000 and will produce approximately 10 per cent of the electricity needed on an annual basis at the Castlegar Campus.

“Environmental sustainability is one of Selkirk College’s fundamental commitments as spelled out in our recently released five-year strategic plan,” says Laura Nessman, the college’s Sustainability Coordinator. “We are dedicated to implementing practices that mitigate climate change and address our energy usage. Looking at where that energy comes from is a big part of that focus.”

Selkirk College incorporates sustainability into all aspects of operations, research endeavors, curriculum and campus culture. The solar panels are just one of several sustainability projects already undertaken and more are being planned for the future.

“As an educational institution, we acknowledge our responsibility to lead by example, not only for our campus community, but also for our surrounding community here in the West Kootenay,” says Nessman. “With the solar project, it’s great to show that it’s possible even in areas of British Columbia that get less sunshine than other locations. It’s definitely a team effort and Selkirk College is proud of the progress we have made and continue to make as we work towards a more sustainable future.”

Though still early, Giesler says that the Castlegar Campus solar project will help provide important information and a foundation for future projects across the college region.

“Our facilities team will be learning about this project and how it impacts our day-to-day operations,” says Giesler, who is also a journeyman electrician. “We hope any bumps in the road can be resolved so our interactions with the solar installation is positive. In the future, we’d like to expand these types of renewable energy projects to our other campuses in the region.”

Learn more about sustainability at Selkirk College at selkirk.ca/sustainability.