Recent energy retrofits have made three community buildings in Balfour more energy-efficient, cost-effective and comfortable for users. Now the groups that own these buildings will go a step further by installing solar panels on their roofs. This move toward energy independence is being supported with $70,000 from Columbia Basin Trust.
“Balfour was already advanced with this project when they approached the Trust,” said Kindy Gosal, Columbia Basin Trust Director, Special Initiatives. “They had already completed energy assessments and done the required retrofits to maximize efficiency before proceeding with adding renewable energy generation. That’s what we liked best about this: the work they had already completed that prepared them for the next step.”
Solar panels—specifically Solar Photo Voltaic systems—will be installed on the Balfour Seniors’ Centre (owned by the Balfour Seniors Association) and the Balfour Community Hall and Balfour Golf Course clubhouse (both owned by the Balfour Recreation Commission). These systems convert sunlight into electricity that can be used to heat and power the buildings, bring down utility bills and reduce the production of greenhouse gases (GHGs). If the Balfour systems generate extra electricity, they will sell it to Nelson Hydro.
Because these buildings are such important assets, the Regional District of Central Kootenay championed the project and will be funding it with over $138,000 from the Federal Gas Tax Community Works Fund for Area E.
Ramona Faust, Director of Area E, said, “The idea is to get the buildings so they’re as energy efficient and expense-neutral as possible while emitting the lowest amount of GHGs. What personally excites me is the energy independence; for societies that operate on a really small budget, energy rates can start to be really inhibitive. And we all benefit when we reduce our GHG emissions.”
Both Faust and the Trust see this process as a way for the use of renewable and alternative energy in the Basin to gain visibility and momentum, potentially inspiring other communities. Faust said, “I think these are very good projects, which use commercially available technologies. With their success, they could encourage others to consider solar in the future, and perhaps set the tone for how development takes place in Area E.”
The Trust has also helped install solar panels on other buildings in the region, including the Ktunaxa Nation Council’s government building in Cranbrook. Projects like these are one of the ways the Trust is helping communities and groups generate and conserve energy through renewable and alternative energy sources—one of its strategic priorities.
The Trust is developing a new energy sustainability program focused on community-purpose buildings, expected to launch this fall. The Trust also supports Accelerate Kootenays, which is creating a network of electric vehicle charging stations throughout the region (acceleratekootenays.ca), and recently concluded a $2-million Energy Retrofit Program, which helped ensure affordable housing units are cost-effective and energy efficient (ourtrust.org/energyretrofit).
Originally posted at CBT.