Thursday, 11 March 2021

Community Highlight: Wascana Solar Co-operative


Wascana Solar Co-operative’s aim is to lead their community to cost-effective renewable energy solutions. 

1. How and when did you form your group? 
Wascana Solar Co-operative (WSC) began with two grassroots community meetings in Regina in 2017. It was at these meetings that our two foundational programs were born – Solar Investment Opportunity and Group Buy. 

2. What are your principal activities and why do you believe they’re important? 
With our Solar Investment Opportunity (SIO) program, co-op members purchase preferred shares ($1,000 each). We then reach out to potential partners who offer us space to install our systems. We help our partners “go green” while they pay us the cost of their power usage. 

In our Group Buy (GB) program, we organize a group of our members interested in purchasing panels, gather the technical requirements for solar projects, then tender it out in a request for proposal. In our first group buy we estimate that our group of 13 members collectively saved $67,000 off of the market rate on our panel purchases and installation (that’s an average of $5,000 each). To date, we have installed 353 solar panels through our three GB programs. 

3. What have been your successes and challenges? 
We have installed 468 panels in southern Saskatchewan through our SIO and GB programs. This is an estimated reduction of 150 tons of CO2 per year. We partnered with Conexus Credit Union and MiEnergy for our first SIO, installing 115 solar panels on the roof of the North Albert Conexus branch. 

In only our first year of incorporation as a co-operative (2018-2019), WSC installed a total of 398 panels through our SIO and GB programs. While some of this success was due to government subsidies at both the provincial and federal level, a very significant contributing factor was SaskPower's 1:1 net-metering program. The restructuring of this program into a net-billing program (more like 0.5:1) has devastated the solar energy industry in our province. 

In spite of this change, we remain confident in our ability to achieve our vision of "acting as a catalyst for growth in solar power." Both our SIO and GB programs still offer some of the most economical ways that Saskatchewanians can decrease their carbon footprints. 

4. What would you like to achieve in 2021? 
The Co-op enters 2021 with new board members and a revised business plan. We plan to introduce an energy monitoring program that would work in a similar way to our GB program. This program would enable those who were interested to assess their energy use throughout one calendar year so that the site-specific project economics could be evaluated and guide the property owner to better understand their project economics. 

We are also considering an industrial-size solar investment project such as the Saskatchewan Environmental Society Solar Co-op’s partnership with CNH Industrial and are considering several possible partnerships. 

The government has promised a home renovation incentive of up to $20,000 that applies to solar power installations, and this is being monitored by WSC. 

In addition to residential use, the GB program could also include one or more commercial projects. Please contact Will Ingenthron for more information at 639-999-5995. 

Under the direction of Andrew Tait, our second SIO installation is coming up soon. If you would like more information about this upcoming opportunity, please visit our website and/or contact Andrew at 306-201-6107. 

If you live in Saskatoon, be sure to check out the SES Solar Co-operative

We’re planning to highlight the work of volunteer organizations in our communities on a regular basis. Do email us if you would like your organization to be profiled on EcoFriendly Sask

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