City tops list of solar power users

In just its first year as a solar community, Campbell River has been recognized as one of the province’s greatest users of solar power.

The city was named the 2010 Solar Power Community of the Year, an honour Campbell River will share with Fort Saint John and North Vancouver.

“It was a really good piece of recognition for the city and it says a lot about what we’re doing to reduce our carbon footprint,” said Peter Woods, chair of the Environmental Advisory Committee, which made the recommendation to council to become a solar community last year.

In March 2010, Campbell River became one of 32 solar communities across B.C. and was awarded $50,000 in grants from both the provincial and federal governments to assist with solar panel installations.

Since then, solar panels have gone up on the Fire Hall downtown, RCMP station, the Sportsplex and the new lift station on Highway 19A. All those buildings are using solar energy to heat their water supplies.

The city also partnered with school district 72 to help fundraise for the installation of a solar hot water system at Timberline Secondary School.

The city was named Solar Power Community of the Year in recognition of its leadership in using solar technology in those five municipal buildings. The award was presented to the city last Wednesday at a ceremony held in the T’sou-ke First Nation community in Sooke.

“Being named a solar community of the year is a great honour for Campbell River,” said Mayor Charlie Cornfield. “Our goal is to be an inspiration for other B.C. communities and to demonstrate that solar power is a viable renewable energy source – even in our coastal, often rainy, climate.”

Because the energy comes from the sun’s light, not its heat, it’s possible to use the solar panels even on a cloudy day.

Amber Zirnheldt, the city’s sustainability manager, said to promote solar power generation to homeowners, displays will be put up at the city facilities already using solar panels to illustrate how the system works. During Solar Days (likely to be held in May) people can tour one of the city facilities to check out the solar panel.

Zirnheldt said the city’s aim in becoming a solar community is to reduce greenhouse emissions for its part in the Climate Action Charter, a provincial initiative by which nearly 200 municipal governments, including Campbell River, are committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2012. It also falls in line with the city’s green strategy to reduce greenhouse emissions.

“We want to look at green power options in order to reduce our carbon footprint,” said Zirnheldt. “Solar power is an alternative to using gas for heating and is a great way to reduce emissions.”

The city also uses solar-powered crosswalks at 12 different locations across the city, including on Dogwood and Alder streets as well as on Highway 19A. Two radar recorders, used to track traffic volume on Dogwood, are also solar-powered.

Zirnheldt said solar panels are also being considered for the Community Centre, Centennial Pool and possibly City Hall.


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