Thursday 24 July 2014

2014 Saskatchewan Solar Tour

EcoFriendly Sask provided a $500 EcoFriendly Action Grant to the organizers of the 5th Annual Saskatchewan Solar Tour. The following is a report on the tour by David Orban. 

Four hours and nine minutes after the sun’s zenith for 2014 (9 am, Saturday, June 21), a touring bus rented from Moose Mountain Bus Lines left Candy Cane Park in Regina for the morning run of the all-day 5th Annual Saskatchewan Solar Tour. Half of the volunteer tour steering committee members were in attendance: Megan Duchek, Jody Broughton, and me (David Orban). After days of rain, the skies were blue.

David Suzuki and Elizabeth May had been sent complimentary tickets. Although Suzuki contacted us saying, “I regret that I can’t make it...,” May didn’t show up nor did she say she wasn’t showing up. I suspect that she never received the letter and enclosed ticket that was sent to her.

As in the past, we had enough door prizes to give away at least one in between stops. The prizes included Home Power magazines, LED light bulbs, watt meters, a solar- powered, remote-controlled toy car, and a folding PV panel, with the grand prize being a $640 inverter/charger donated by 2B Green Power Solutions.

The slogan of the tour for this year was Good Day Sunshine. Phil Boychuk, another committee member, pre-recorded a dozen songs on a CD with themes related to the slogan. This was played on the bus’s stereo system as background music during the tour.

Jody and I, who are both experienced solar technicians, had decided beforehand that we would let the participants in on some little known and interesting facts about solar power as they related to the sites visited on the tour. A few examples of these facts will be given in the description of the tour that follows.

The schedule for the morning tour was sites in and around Regina. We first drove by and within several hundred meters of a wind turbine owned by Cowessess First Nation and located a few miles east of Regina. Commissioned a year ago, this iconic 800 kilowatt (kW) generator on a 73-meter tower has two sets of 400 kilowatt hour lithium-ion battery packs for storage.

Fact: Doubling the wind speed triples the power output 

Our first stop was just south-east of White City at Kyle Parker’s home on a farm. He has a 10 kW photovoltaic (PV) residential grid tie system: 5 kW ground and 5 kW roof mount. He installed his system and spoke about it. About a 100 meters east of his house, Bill Walton of 2B Green Power Solutions showed us his 30 kW solar farm.

Fact: The colder the ambient temperature, the more efficiently a PV system works 

Next we headed back to Regina to see the largest residential PV system in the city owned by Brad Hershmiller. Brad and Ken Kelln of Kelln Solar, who installed this system, were there to guide the participants at this site.

Fact: Of all the cities in the world with a population of over 200,000, Regina is ranked 6th among those having the best solar resources. The city of Frieburg in Germany, which has the same population as Regina and a solar regime equivalent to cloudy Vancouver, has over 50 megawatts of rooftop PV compared to Regina’s less than 1⁄4 of a megawatt 

The final stop for the morning was a solar thermal hot water at Namerind Housing Corporation. Namerind’s CEO, Robert Byers, was in attendance to explain the system to the attendees. The 10 flat plate collectors are used for both domestic hot water and to preheat water for space heating in this multi-residential system.

We dropped off morning-only participants and picked up some for the afternoon tour at Candy Cane Park at noon. Megan departed at this time and another two tour committee members climbed on: Phil and Betty Beaglehole. The only volunteer who has never attended a tour is our poster designer Richard Vicarius. We then travelled to Moose Jaw and ate our lunches on the way. We picked up a few attendees at Mac The Moose and went to our first site in Moose Jaw.

Don Mitchell’s home was a first for the tour in having the only solar thermal hot air collector ever visited by the tour. One 8’ by 4’ panel has reduced his natural gas heating bill by 15% during the winter. 

Two pole-mounted PV arrays owned by Mark Gillies were our next Moose Jaw site visit. Commissioned five years ago and installed by Kelln Solar, Mark’s system has a maximum output of 2.7 kW and is grid tied.

Fact: PV panels have no moving parts to wear out and typically have a 25-year warranty. The first solar cell, created back in 1952, is still pumping out electricity

Next we went to Kell Viczko’s solar thermal hot water and geothermal hybrid horse riding arena 10 k west of Moose Jaw. Kell was there to welcome us along with a representative from Nexus Energy who did the geothermal part of the system as well as Vic Ellis of SCI Sustainable Concepts Inc. and his partner, Dale Wourms, who did the solar end of things. They had coffee and muffins available for us and Vic had a PowerPoint presentation on heat transfer processes, insulation, and global sustainability.

After dropping the Moose Jaw attendees off at Mac The Moose, we travelled back to Regina. Our last stop was at Belle Plaine and another first for the tour: the only building-integrated photovoltaic site ever visited by the tour. This carport was designed with PV in mind. Owned by Ron Gares and installed by Evergreen Energy Solutions, it sports a 5.6 kW grid-tied system which was commissioned three years ago.

Forty-one people attended the tour. Social connections were made. Information was shared. Knowledge was gained. There is enough seed money for the steering committee to start the cycle all over again.

Thank you EcoFriendly Sask for making the 2014 Saskatchewan Solar Tour a success.

Photo credit: Saskatchewan Solar Tour Facebook page