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Renewable Energy on Vancouver Island

By Jenn McGarrigle 

Finding ways to reduce the carbon footprint of communities, businesses and individuals is top of mind for many. Is there a future for renewable energy projects on the Island? Three presenters at the 2017 State of the Island Economic Summit think so. 

Going Solar

Michel de Spot, President and CEO of Vancouver-based EcoSmart Foundation, says as prices drop for solar technology, installations are skyrocketing. In the United States, solar has reached grid parity in 27 states, which means the price is the same or lower than if you bought from a utility company. De Spot brought up a solar map of Canada and Vancouver Island which showed how much sun each region receives on average. While parts of Saskatchewan have the most potential in the country, southeast Vancouver Island potentially gets enough sun for solar energy projects, he says.

Renewable Natural Gas

Colton Ashton, Energy Solutions Manager with FortisBC, believes renewable natural gas has an important role to play in a sustainable BC. The company developed its RNG program in response to customer demand for more eco-friendly options. The program partners with farms, landfills and other suppliers to capture methane produced by decomposing organic waste, which would otherwise escape into the atmosphere. Although RNG is still in its infancy, FortisBC is actively seeking new projects to partner with. The company also offers customers the ability to designate that a certain portion of their natural gas use be renewable.

Geo-Exchange Energy

A unique green energy project is under construction at Vancouver Island University’s Nanaimo Campus that harnesses the geo-thermal energy from the water in sunken mine shafts below the campus to heat and cool buildings. In 2016, the federal government announced they would fund 50% of the project, which involved the drilling of two wells on campus and construction of a pump house. The goal is for the District Geo-Exchange Energy System to eventually heat and cool all buildings on campus, and neighbouring facilities as well. It hasn’t been an easy process to get going because of the uniqueness of the project, says Alan Cumbers, VIU’s Associate VP of Facilities and Ancillary Services, but once it’s completed it could provide a model for other organizations to construct similar systems.

The takeaway? There is no one solution when it comes to converting to renewable energy, but there are plenty of creative projects and ideas to explore to help Island businesses and individuals lower their carbon footprint

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