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

James Taylor, a Saanich resident and member of the Curve Lake First Nation, walked all over Greater Victoria on May 5 in honour of Red Dress Day and the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. (Devon Bidal/News staff)
Indigenous man walks Greater Victoria to honour missing and murdered women and girls

James Taylor, of the Curve Lake First Nation, marks Red Dress Day with healing walk, songs

A man who allegedly spat at and yelled racial slurs at an Asian family was arrested for hate-motivated assault Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man arrested for allegedly spitting, yelling anti-Asian racial slurs at a mother and kids

The man was arrested for hate-motivated assault near Quadra Elementary School Tuesday

Victoria police is asking for the public’s assistance in identifying this suspect after they allegedly robbed a Douglas Street bank on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Police seek identity of suspect who alllegedly robbed Victoria bank

Officers were called to a bank in the 1000-block of Douglas Street just after 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday

Victoria police said Wednesday that they continue to look for Belinda Ann Cameron, who was last seen on May 5, 2005. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Victoria police still looking for Belinda Cameron who was last seen 16 years ago

Cameron was reported missing on June 4, 2005, and her case is deemed suspicious

Colwood-based writer Esi Edugyan will speak about the deep research she did before writing <em>Washington Black</em>, her third novel. (Black Press Media file photo)
Colwood author Esi Edugyan giving talk May 6 about her research and writing process

Event is part of Royal Road’s Changemaker series celebrating its 25th anniversary

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Trudeau says he is glad he got AstraZeneca, vaccines are only way out of pandemic

‘The most important thing is to get vaccinated with the first vaccine offered to you’

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of May 4

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Do you plan to travel on the Victoria Day long weekend?

It’s the unofficial start to the summer season. A time of barbecues,… Continue reading

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Dip in COVID-19 cases with 572 newly announced in B.C.

No new deaths have been reported but hospitalized patients are up to 481, with 161 being treated in intensive care

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O���Connell photo)
Clash between loggers, activists halts forestry operations over Fairy Creek

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

The courthouse in Nanaimo, B.C. (News Bulletin file)
Island man sentenced in Nanaimo after causing a dog unnecessary pain and suffering

Kiefer Tyson Giroux, 26, of Nanoose Bay, given six-month sentence

Following a one-year pause due to the pandemic, the Snowbirds were back in the skies over the Comox Valley Wednesday (May 5) morning. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Video: Snowbirds hold first training session in Comox Valley in more than 2 years

The team will conduct their training from May 4 to 26 in the area

Solar panels on a parking garage at the University of B.C. will be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter captured to supply a vehicle filling station. (UBC video)
UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Demonstration project gets $5.6M in low-carbon fuel credits

Most Read