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Solar advocates excited at possibilities

Renewable Energy

The possibility of new green-focused federal grants, an offer of land for a solar co-op initiative in downtown Sechelt and the help of some enthusiastic students from BCIT have Sunshine Coast Community Solar Association (SCCSA) member Joanna Zilsel excited.

“All of this has just reinvigorated me,” Zilsel said.

The local solar power activist has been spearheading the idea of creating a solar co-op and organizing a bulk buy of solar panels through SCCSA for several months, mostly on her own. She’s also amassed a list of about 360 Sunshine Coast residents who are interested in solar power and the possibility of joining a co-op once it’s set up, but it’s a long way from becoming reality.

“It’s a huge undertaking. We have to secure the land, create the co-op, negotiate with BC Hydro, and there are legal considerations,” Zilsel said.

One piece of the puzzle seemed to fall into place after Coast Reporter last ran an article on the SCCSA’s  plans.

“A local retired realtor, Bob Bull, who owns a 3.5-acre parcel in downtown Sechelt, contacted me right after that last article,” Zilsel said, noting Bull was interested in the possibility of using his property for a solar power initiative.

The property has high voltage power lines running through its centre, which makes it challenging to use for building, but it’s essentially flat and able to accommodate several solar panels.

“It was like a gift from the cosmos,” Zilsel said, noting discussions around using the property are still taking place.

She pointed to the recent election of a new federal government that could offer some solar-related grants in the future as another positive on the solar front.

Several Coasters have contacted Zilsel and used the services of Clear Energy Solutions to see if their homes would be a good fit for solar panels before opting into the bulk buy. While most homes are able to use a solar setup of some kind, the “vast majority” aren’t ready to commit because of the price, Zilsel said.

“It’s still very expensive even though there are some savings through the bulk buy,” she said, adding she’s hopeful the new federal government will offer some incentives to go solar soon.

“Trudeau promised to focus on renewable energy.”

Yet another positive for the Coast’s solar situation is the creation of a new project through the Sustainable Business Leadership Program at BCIT that will see students work directly with SCCSA to nail down what best practices, policies and regulations are needed for solar power to flourish.

“I’m really looking forward to working with the students and seeing what they come up with,” Zilsel said.

If you would like to get involved in the solar scene on the Coast, contact Zilsel at 604-886-3570 or email