Going Solar - Finally!

Going Solar -- Finally!

One of the Green Team's 'big ideas' has finally been completed - one that could see our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduced by about 25%. It's been a long time coming, but we can finally say "Check!" to the goal of going solar and starting to reduce our propane consumption.

"Baby steps". That at times seems to be a common phrase in Museum Green Team meetings. With big ideas and without the resources to match them, often it can be frustrating to have to make smaller changes than we would like. But back in 2015, not long after the Green Team was born, we began to talk about reducing the propane consumption at our gold panning pavilion. For about five months in winter - in order to prevent the water freezing overnight, and to provide a modicum of comfort to visitors - we had a propane-fuelled water heater. The problem was, it couldn't be run lower than 102F and it ran 24/7. For hygiene reasons, we need a continuous water stream in gold panning, meaning we were essentially running a hot water tap constantly. For the Green Team, this heater had to go! We wanted an on-demand hydro water heater. Even better if it could be solar powered.

Fast forward to 2016 and we were thrilled to receive grant funding from Squamish Savings Community Partnership Program and the Squamish Lilloeet Regional District (SLRD) Area D Select Fund towards our goals. With $30,000 of the required $40,000 approved, we were subsequently able to use this for matching funds to apply for the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund to cover the rest. And guess what - we were successful! 

Thanks to the generosity and forward thinking of the SLRD, we were included on a solar feasibility study. It was determined that our original idea to have a solar powered water heater at gold panning was a non-starter. For one, the east-west roof orientation was wrong. Secondly, as was pointed out to us, it was far better to have a solar array feeding into our general electrical panel so we could benefit from it year round. The roof of our Beaty Lundin Visitor Centre was perfect for an array - flat, open to the south, and furthest away from the shadow of the adjacent steep slopes, meaning it would catch the most sun on site. A ballasted racking system also meant no drilling into the roof for anchor points. It was a very happy day for me to see the panels being lifted onto the roof for installation.

And so, two years after we first set this in our sights, that water heater is indeed gone, and we now have a 6kW solar array on site. The array will provide only a small proportion of our overall hydro needs, but the original goal was to offset the hydro needed for gold panning, and give us a bit extra if it could. The gold panning propane heater used an estimated third of our propane needs, and so by reducing this, our GHG emissions should be greatly reduced.

The solar array is tied in to a publicly available online portal that lets us see our power generation as well as our environmental savings. 

Our sincerest thanks goes to the financial support, and belief in the project, of Squamish Savings, the SLRD and our Area Director Tony Rainbow, and the Department of Canadian Heritage. I would also like to acknowledge the advice and enthusiasm of Ben Giudici of Riverside Energy Systems for his work on the solar aspect of the project.

Hmmmm, now what shall we target next!!!