Drake Landing wins international environmental award
Okotoks: Solar community selected over projects from around the world
Friday, Dec 02, 2011 11:48 am
The development won the prestigious Energy Globe World Award at a ceremony in Austria last week for its state-of the art heating technology used to store solar energy underground before being used to heat homes in the winter.
Doug McClenahan, Natural Resources Canada research and development manager, said the award is a strong, independent acknowledgement of the importance of the technology.
“It’s a recognition that work in the storage area is key to the future use of renewable energy,” he said.
The solar community is a joint partnership between Natural Resources Canada, the Town of Okotoks, ATCO Gas, developer United Communities and home builder Sterling Homes. McClenahan accepted the award on behalf of all partners in front of representatives from 40 countries at the awards ceremony in Wels, Austria on Nov. 26.
The solar community was one of approximately 900 projects from around the world nominated in five categories: earth, fire, water, air and youth. Drake Landing was one of three finalists in the fire category, which focuses on energy initiatives, and ended up beating out a biogas plant in Kenya and a micro power project in Senegal for the fire award.
Then the nearly 1,000 audience members at the ceremony selected the top prize, the Energy Globe World Award, from among the winners in each category. Drake Landing also earned the top award.
“The nice thing about it was the acknowledgement by the audience members after they’ve seen the other winning projects,” said McClenahan.
The 52-home community was built as a pilot project to test the unique solar heating technology. Solar panels installed on garages behind the homes are used to heat a fluid, which is then pumped underground during the summer months to store the heat. In the winter, the heat energy is then used to heat the homes in the community and natural gas is used to top up additional heating needs.
McClenahan said Drake Landing has gone beyond any other similar project.
Last year, the project received nearly 80 per cent of its heating needs from solar energy and it’s hoped it will reach the 90 per cent level this year.
McClenahan said the concept of storing solar energy in the summer and use to heat homes in the winter was an intriguing and attractive technology for people at the ceremony.
“It struck right to the essence of life,” he said. “In reality, and this is what I think it is about, solar energy is the source of all life and the fact that you can get enough locally — no matter where you are in many countries — to provide almost all the heat you need in a cold climate is impressive for people to see.”
McClenahan received a bronze statue for the fire category and a near foot-tall gold statue for the world award and he plans to bring them to Okotoks in the coming months.
Okotoks Mayor Bill Robertson said he is eager to see the trophies.
He said the award is a major coup for Drake Landing and the Town.
“It’s an international award,” he said. “We’ve certainly won Emerald awards from the Province and innovative awards at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, but this one is big.”
Robertson said its proof the project is still world-leading technology more than five years after the solar community was built.
“It shows one more time that Drake Landing is cutting edge,” he said. “Being able to take solar energy, transfer it to a liquid, store it underground and then transfer it back up and heat homes through the winter, it’s impressive.”
Drake Landing is part of a distinguished club of winners from around the world.
The Far Eastern University in Vladivostok, Russia won the earth category for a unique home which uses special insulation and solar technology to maintain an internal temperature of 22 degrees Celsius, even in frigid Siberia. The water category was won by a Nicaraguan non-governmental organization for solar-powered water pumps to provide a clean water source for rural communities as well as for education on improving water management. There were two winners in the air category, one for a wind power project in Gothenborg, Sweden to power cargo ships while in port to get them to turn off their diesel engines. The other went to Swiss retailer Migros for its efforts in the past 30 years to use clean energy. The youth award went to the Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust in Zambia for its efforts to educate young people about ecosystems.