Solar Colwood’s Glenys Verhulst plugs in the electric vehicle of Colwood Coun. Judith Cullington during a visit to her home. The installation of the in-home charging equipment was paid for in part with a grant from Solar Colwood.

Solar Colwood’s Glenys Verhulst plugs in the electric vehicle of Colwood Coun. Judith Cullington during a visit to her home. The installation of the in-home charging equipment was paid for in part with a grant from Solar Colwood.

People of the sun united in Colwood

City of Colwood solar converts happily walkin’ – and running – on sunshine

Judith Cullington hands over a tablet. The Colwood city councillor’s electronic device displays flashing numbers: – 621, – 619, – 622.

The numbers continue to flicker on and off when she disappears out a doorway and a low rumble churns through the air. The numbers change, reading in the 4,000’s until the mysterious rumbling stops and the number flickers at – 621 once more.

“I just turned on my dryer,” Cullington said, smiling. The numbers represented her home’s energy consumption in watts, starting off at a negative because solar panels on her roof produced energy in excess of what the home was using and automatically supplementing what she needed when the dryer kicked in. That, she said, is the magic of the upgrades she has installed in her home through Solar Colwood.

“It is actually cheaper,” she said. “You are paying up front, but benefiting all the way down the back end. If you’re going to stay in your house for any reasonable length of time, why wouldn’t you do it?”

Since the program was introduced in Colwood June of 2011, Cullington has installed solar photovoltaic grids, or solar panels, on her roof that allow her to charge her electric vehicle, a solar hot water system for her water tank and a ductless split heat pump. Despite spending thousands of dollars on purchases and installation – even after Solar Colwood grants were applied – she said it is an investment she is more than happy to make.

“The payback for the electric car will be four to five years,” she said, explaining that the savings would make it equivalent to buying a similar sized gas-powered car.

“Those panels actually produce more energy than my car uses in a year, so I say I am running my car on sunshine.”

She called her solar panels her “Alberta oil field on my roof” and estimates that it costs her $15 a month to charge her car, a Nissan Leaf, forgoing gasoline completely. Once the gas savings pay for the price of the car, the rest is money in her pocket. The cost for her solar water retrofit would likely be a longer-term investment she said, closer to 10 to 15 years. With a lifetime expectancy pushing 25 years or more, the saving would eventually be there but Cullington believes money isn’t only factor.

“If you put in nice granite countertops (in your home) what is the payback on those? The answer is there isn’t one… You do it because you want to do it.”

Solar Colwood spokesperson Glenys Verhulst admitted that for some homeowners, the up-front cost of the larger retrofit installations can be prohibitive.

There are varying applications for almost any household, from kits with free bathroom and kitchen aerators that don’t require tools to install, to loan programs through Vancity to help make the program more accessible now.

“Having expensive electricity or gas bills is not affordable either. This way you get energy independence over the long run and sunshine is always free,” Verhulst said, “unlike what happens with electricity and other forms of energy, which you will always purchase from somebody else.”

The program, funded through a $3.9-million federal grant established January of 2011, pays for the individual grants as well as the staffing cost for all the contractors, including Verhulst. Colwood staff time has been estimated at approximately $1.50 per household per year, a cheap price to pay to have the opportunity, she said. It is especially so in light of $1,000 a year savings for the Colwood Fire Department main hall related to a retrofit, and the electric car added to the city’s fleet.

Royal Roads University director of sustainability Nancy Wilkin led a study on the program with several of her masters students. They monitored 13 homes, roughly a third of those retrofitted through Solar Colwood. The ongoing study looks at B.C. Hydro bills from before, during and after the upgrades and Wilkin said the results speak for themselves.

“They have saved 44 per cent. They are directly saving money and you translate that to greenhouse gas emissions it is a 45 per cent reduction,” she said.

“For the little town of Colwood, those are astounding percentages.”

The lowest decrease in a bill was 25 per cent, the highest being 68 per cent. Efficiency of the households ranged, depending on numerous factors including the age of the house and amount of insulation already in the house alongside the homes size and layout.

So far Solar Colwood has helped consumers take more than 1,500 energy-saving actions with approximately 400 free energy-saving kits, 100 ductless heat pumps and 40 solar hot water systems, the last figure second highest in Canada next to the Sooke First Nation.

The program ends March 31, 2015, when all federal money for grants is pulled and any retrofitting goes up to full price. Royal Roads will release its study to the public in its entirety upon completion of the program.

“There are lots of other important things to do as well, but making our community a leader is an important thing to do,” Cullington said.

“Addressing climate change is important, helping our residents lower their energy bills is important. What we find is a lot of people want to do this because it feels like the right thing to do. It is not necessarily just about the money.”

For more information visit solarcolwood.ca

alim@vicnews.com

Heat pumps a hot ticket

The $500 Solar Colwood grants for installing ductless heat pumps can be added to by applying to the HERO program administered by B.C. Hydro and Fortis. An additional $800 grant makes the total discount $1,300.

The heat pump grants are the most popular item in Solar Colwood’s program, aside from the free energy-saving kits, but there are only 11 left available. Visit solarcolwood.ca for more details.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Thousands protested in Victoria following the death of George Floyd in the U.S. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. is not exempt: New report documents 150 years of racism and the fight against it

Booklet marks province’s 150th anniversary with call for transparency, change

Aerial view of the Capital Regional District residuals treatment facility at Hartland Landfill where residual solids are turned into Class A biosolids. (Photo courtesy CRD)
Plant closure sends more biosolids to Hartland Landfill

Saanich residents are concerned they were never consulted

Sgt. Sandrine Perry in the Oak Bay Police Department interview room that has been softened with household features to better accommodate survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Oak Bay police interview room gets a makeover

Room made less daunting for victims of trauma

BC Housing ensures that by March 31, shelter will be available to all people living outside. (Black Press Media file photo)
All unhoused Victoria residents will be offered shelter by March 31, says BC Housing

BC Housing working to secure shelter locations in coming weeks

Robert Schram, here seen in January 2016, died Saturday, according to a friend. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sidney, Saanich Peninsula mourn the death of Mr. Beads

Bead artist Robert Schram was a familiar, well-loved figure in Sidney and beyond

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

The Nanaimo Clippers in action at Frank Crane Arena in early 2020. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo Clippers for sale, owner says hockey won’t be back to normal any time soon

Wes Mussio says he’s had numerous inquiries about the junior A club already

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation, May 8, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s weekend COVID-19 cases: 532 Saturday, 508 Sunday, 438 Monday

Fraser Health still has most, eight more coronavirus deaths

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Churches, including Langley’s Riverside Calvary Church, are challenging the regulations barring them from holding in-person worship services during COVID-19. (Langley Advance Times file)
Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Police have identified the vehicle involved in the Feb. 14 hit-and-run in Chemainus and are continuing to investigate. (Black Press Media files)
Police seize and identify suspect vehicle in hit-and-run

Investigation into death expected to be lengthy and involved

(Black Press file photo)
Child in critical condition, homicide investigators probe incident near Agassiz

The child was transported to hospital but is not expected to survive

Most Read