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Environment File

One of Alberta’s top solar electrical plants last April was located atop a St. Albert teacher’s rooftop.
SOLAR POWERED – Paul Kane teacher Craig Dickey shows off the 4
SOLAR POWERED – Paul Kane teacher Craig Dickey shows off the 4

One of Alberta’s top solar electrical plants last April was located atop a St. Albert teacher’s rooftop.

Paul Kane High teacher Craig Dickey told the Gazette this week that his rooftop array in North Ridge produced the most electricity out of the 200-odd solar systems monitored by Goose Creek Renewable Energy.

The nine-panel, 4,400-watt system cranked out about 164.85 kilowatt-hours of power in April, said Richard Gerlach, St. Albert resident and spokesperson for Goose Creek Renewable – more than any of the other 200 systems he tracks on behalf of Black Diamond, Starland County, and SAIT Polytechnic.

“We were both pretty shocked,” Gerlach said.

Dickey said he sprung for the $20,000 system last summer after years of debate.

“The issue was, let’s go green,” he explained. His family wanted to save energy, and had already taken steps such as installing efficient LED light bulbs. Last year, solar system prices dropped low enough for him to spring for one.

The system has since produced 3,007 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy in 10 months and has cut his family’s electricity bill by about 60 per cent, Dickey said.

“Last August we ended up paying $19.74 for our electricity bill,” he said, laughing.

Dickey said the system saves his family about $160 a month in power in the summer and $85 a month in the winter – even when it’s covered in snow.

“I thought in winter it would be a dud,” he said, but they still ended up offsetting almost half their bill.

Dickey’s system has an ideal position to catch the sun’s rays and a hyper-efficient inverter made by Eguana Technologies, Gerlach said – the first such inverter installed north of Calgary.

It’s not unusual for solar systems to perform well in Alberta, particularly in the spring, said Rob Harlan, executive director of the Solar Energy Society of Alberta.

Edmonton generally has cool weather and clear skies (particularly in the spring), both of which benefit solar panels – panels become 0.38 per cent more efficient for every degree drop in temperature, and clear skies mean more light. These conditions mean that an array in Berlin, Germany, that produces 848 kWh in a year will produce 1,245 kWh if moved to Edmonton.

“We’re actually fairly comparable to Rio de Janeiro” in terms of production, Harlan said.

Dickey said his system should pay for itself in about 10 years.

“Chances are someone else will reap the benefits of it, but, y’know? Good for them.”

There are about 190 grid-connected solar electrical systems in Edmonton as of May, Harlan said – a number that’s roughly doubling each year.

Putting up solar panels is a no-brainer if you want to do something green, Dickey said.

“Honestly? Show-homes should have it.”

Dickey said he delights in hearing the system’s inverter kick in whenever he goes out for a walk.

“That hum means money saved!”

Dumped a set of patio chair cushions recently? Some diligent cleaners might have swept them up during last week’s RiverFest.

About 291 people came down to the Sturgeon River by St. Albert Centre last May 11 for the 17th annual Clean and Green RiverFest, said city community recreation co-ordinator Margo Brenneis – about 20 more than last year.

The annual event sees residents come out to pick trash and plant trees along the Sturgeon River.

Volunteers hauled in about 0.87 tonnes of trash in the end, or a bit more than the 0.7 collected last year. While most of this junk was in the form of food wrappers, Brenneis said teams also recovered a complete set of patio chair cushions.

Most volunteers also took part in the River Edge Enhancement Project (REEP), she continued. Some 295 trees got added to the riverbank.

Brenneis said she was impressed by the turnout, particularly by the large contingent from Lorne Akins Junior High.

“People really care about their community.”