The project, Summerland Energy Centre, took eight years of planning and project execution.
“Summerland, as we see today, gets a lot of sun. I think we get 305 days a year with some sunlight and compare that to the coast, it’s much more, right? So, it’s a really good place for solar,” said Summerland Mayor Doug Holmes.
“I think the really exciting thing for us and the reason we got into it in the first place, all those years ago, was the opportunity to get some control over on our own grid, to make a stable, reliable power, and the opportunity to control the costs.”
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The Energy Centre is located at the site of the former Municipal Works yard on the ‘toe’ of Cartwright Mountain which sets the stage for an adjacent soon-to-be-built eco-village.
The site is now home to more than 700 solar modules. According to the District, it includes an innovative battery storage component, a solar array with 412kW solar power capacity, 1MW of battery storage, 3.56 MWh power supply, and upgrades to the existing electrical system.
“When Council reviewed all the various sites to choose from, they settled on this. It’s central to town and it has a great view of the South where the sun is without a lot of obstructions. So as far as solar energy goes, it’s a great spot,” said District of Summerland Utilities director Jeremy Storvold.
“The solar panels you can see in the foreground there and in the background in the white containers is our BESS, battery energy storage system, and that’s where we store the energy that we collect from sunlight.”
Summerland is one of five municipalities in B.C., that operates its own electrical utility.
This project is a cost-saving initiative for the community as for every kilowatt hour that the solar plant generates is one kilowatt hour that the district doesn’t have to buy.
“Within the community boundary, all of the poles and wires and electric utility belong to Summerland. The electric utility buys power wholesale from FortisBC and part of our bill is energy costs and demand costs. This project is a cost-saving measure for the electric utility,” said Storvold.
“Anything that it generates from the sun offsets our bill with our transmission wholesaler and so the battery energy storage system is used to peak shave, and that’s a concept where we’re able to cut our numbers down and reduce our costs.”
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Currently, the site is operating at around 60 per cent capacity which Storvold says is higher than expected for the middle of November.
According to the district, residents can expect to see the benefits from the solar generation almost immediately.
“Unlike most projects that we do, they don’t benefit everybody, every single person in the community. Like if you pave a road, it’s only the people who actually drive on that road that’ll benefit from that… but you do these things for the common good,” said Holmes.
“Everybody needs electricity. Every resident, every business, every farming operation, so everybody in the community will benefit from this project and that’s quite rare.”
The $6.98-million project was completed on time and on budget with $6,000,000 in funding from the Canada Community-Building Fund and $980,000 from the Summerland Electrical Utility Capital Reserve.
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