Under a bright blue sky, Central Saanich Fire Department proudly unveiled 360 solar panels at a ceremony, Friday.
Located on two of the fire station’s roofs, stretching out like a futuristic blanket, the panels will be able to generate 80 per cent of Fire Station 1’s energy consumption and is on track to be a net zero building. Like Friday, when the building is operating at a normal level, but not firing on all cylinders, it can produce three times the electricity the building needs. Operating at full capacity on a sunny day, the panels can produce over 100 kW of electricity, with excess power then feeding the main grid, powering homes and businesses nearby. In turn, the station then receives credits, to access power from the main grid on overcast days during the winter months.
The panels cost $220,000 and will take 10 years to pay back. Their life span is 25 years, leading to cost savings of about $500,000. The project was spurred by Mayor Ryan Windsor and Coun. Zeb King who served a joint notice of motion in January 2017. District staff then researched the idea, enmeshed it into Central Saanich’s Climate Leadership Plan and budgeted it.
Vancouver Island company Hakai Energy Solutions’ bid was less than the District expected the project to cost, so they were contracted to carry out the work.
Windsor is proud of the initiative. “Every time I see a solar panel, whether its one panel or 360 I think we’re getting it. It’s tangible differences that we can make. It has an impact on the environment, positively, and an impact on our budget, positively.”
King says often renewable energy is bashed by critics, saying it will lead to job losses and damage the economy. He feels projects like this show jobs and savings are more often the result. “This is an example of no loss of jobs, no extra cost – it was grant funded from senior government, not from Central Saanich tax payers. So I think we need to overcome this fear that it’s going to result in harming our economy to actually do what we have to, to meet our climate goals.”
The work took six people 10 days to install, and the team is now integrating the system, bringing it online and publishing all the data on an online portal. The system can now be used in an emergency, with the possibility of hooking batteries up to it and allow the station, which is the district’s emergency hub, to continue operating if cut off from all other fuel sources.
Deputy Fire Chief Neal Widdifield says, “We’re excited to be one of the first on the Island to have this sort of system. It enables us to charge a lot of our equipment, some that is on the trucks, such as battery operated equipment, ‘jaws of life,’ all our radios, thermal imaging equipment, and then to be able to put power back into the system that our neighbours can use. It’s a great project.”