Can solar work in 'Raincouver'?

Metro Vancouver piloting solar power electricity at Colony Farm Park in Coquitlam

A pilot project to use solar power for electricity at Metro Vancouver parks got its first real test this past summer at Colony Farm Regional Park.

And, so far, the experiment appears to be working.

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Construction was completed this spring on a $95,000 project to bring solar power to the Coquitlam park, which has no hydro electricity and has been using a diesel-powered generator in its workshop.

Now, instead of a smelly, noisy generator that produces greenhouse gasses along with electricity, two large solar panels are capturing the sun’s energy and storing it for powering small tools and saws in the workshop located next to the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital.

“We wanted to try a pilot project out to see if there’s an option to use it in other parks or other applications,” explained Steven Schaffrick, division manager for central area regional parks, who said Metro would have had to pay the equivalent amount or more to install and maintain a power line to the workshop to upgrade its power.

Adding to the need was the fact that plans are moving ahead to rebuild the works yard, a 40-year-old converted barn that is not in very good shape, and bring its maintenance operation into the 21st century.

The organization applied for and received funding through an innovation sustainability fund, and used it to construct the solar array. It is expected to get more use once the new building is constructed, although the rebuild still needs approval from the city of Coquitlam and the Agricultural Land Commission before it can go ahead.

Schaffrick hopes to have more information on the efficiencies of the new solar power system once it’s in use for a full year. If it proves to work and solve a number of operation problems — while also reducing Metro’s greenhouse gas emissions — solar could be introduced at other regional parks.

“We’re going o see how it works, how it performs to see how the battery storage is — to see if it can be used as a continuous source of electricity — to see if there’s another application for it for parks that don’t have great access to power. Some of our parks are not close to the grid,” Schaffrick said.

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