NSSWD looks at solar energy

Backup power source could be in water district’s future

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The North Salt Spring Waterworks District will be looking into implementing solar power at their office to ensure continued operation in the case of an emergency, and to reduce their reliance on the conventional power grid for day-to-day operations.

The decision to explore options was made by board trustees at their Aug. 1 meeting.

A recommendation from district staff was put forward for the installation of propane-powered generators to act as a backup in the case of emergency. The recommendation looked at propane because it would be easy to implement by this winter. However, after calculating the cost of the project, board member Gary Gagné recommended looking into a solar option.

“Adding up some of the numbers here for the generator, tanks, switches, gas fitters and whatnot, it comes out to roughly $37,000,” Gagné said during the meeting. “For $37,000, a pretty decent solar system could be put in place and this site happens to be in a good solar area.”

NSSWD’s services affect around 7,500 people on the island, either directly or indirectly through contract work with the CRD. In the event of an emergency like the Dec. 20 windstorm or the snowstorm in February, the utility’s goal is to maintain services and have an emergency operations centre for their staff and for communications purposes.

Having a powered hub would also benefit the district operators, who would be able to recuperate and warm up in a lighted and safe facility.

Though the original idea presented to the board at the meeting was to install a large propane tank at the district office, which would provide partial power for up to one week before needing to be refilled, Gagné asked about the possibility of converting to solar power. Other board members were in agreement with the idea. They said solar had added benefits such as lowering the district’s hydro bill, being useable not only in emergencies but year round, and setting an example for the island and investing in environmentally friendly technology.

“Do we just stay doing the same old same old in burning fossil fuels? Or do we show some leadership to the community?” Gagné asked. “Once we have a solar system set up, we don’t have to wait for an emergency to use that solar system. We can use it on a daily basis, especially in the summertime when there’s lots of excess power. We could even consider the option of selling power back to the grid.”

The board voted to ask staff to investigate the idea of converting the facility to solar power, and the issue will come back to a future board meeting for discussion.

For more on this story, see the August 7, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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