Arena embraces the sun
By: Tammy Rollie
| Posted: Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013 08:23 am
A foothills community is gaining power over its energy usage in one of its most expensive facilities to operate.
The Town of Black Diamond partnered with Canadian green energy provider Bullfrog Power to split the $60,000 bill to install 42 new 250-watt solar panels on the roof of the Oilfields Regional Arena. Town council approved the project with a unanimous vote during a meeting earlier this fall.
“It costs a lot to run the arena,” said Black Diamond Mayor Sharlene Brown. “It doesn’t matter what municipality you are in there isn’t a cost recovery (for arenas). I don’t think it will ever be totally independent on alternative energy or renewables. What it does do is it reduces the operating costs immensely.”
Bullfrog Power paid for half of the 10-kilowatt solar panel project through its renewable accelerator program, which assists homes and businesses in reducing their environmental impact through renewable energy solutions.
The Town paid for its half with $19,500 coming from the arena’s solar reserve fund and $10,500 out of the Town’s green fund.
The Town started the new solar system last week during a public ceremony with Town and Bullfrog Power representatives in attendance.
The project is just one of Black Diamond’s initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint.
Over the past several months the Town also installed energy-efficient furnaces, an energy-efficient water heater, LED lighting, programmable thermostats and an energy management system in the arena to bring costs down.
Parks and recreation manager Les Quinton said the cost savings from these initiatives in the arena alone is expected to be more than $8,500 in a full year, even with the addition of an extra month of ice time.
Quinton said the arena’s solar panels, with a little help from the wind-powered turbines, reduced the Town’s power costs by more than $500 in 2012 and more than $1,000 so far this year. That number will be higher next year, he said.
The installation of renewable energy sources and energy-saving equipment also helps expand the life of the facility and reduces the community’s greenhouse gas emissions, power consumption, gas consumption and water consumption, he said.
“We are trying to be more conscious of our environment,” he said. “We want to try to be more sustainable. How can we expect our residents to if our Town doesn’t?”
Cost savings from these green initiatives are put into the Town’s green reserve fund for future green projects, which are either covered by grants or cost shared with other organizations, said Brown.
“We budget for total operational energy usage,” she said. “Any money that comes back is a savings to the community. What we don’t pay into those utilities we put into a green fund to give us seed money to be able to apply for matching grants to increase our renewable energy sources.”
Brown said the installation of the solar panels is just another step forward to becoming a cleaner community.
“We eventually will reduce operating costs and reduce emissions,” she said. “That seems to be what the federal government wants to see happen.”
Brown said it’s important to look into alternative power sources to reduce the burden on the tax base because the cost to operate the arena is so high.
She said the arena is a vital part of the community.
“It’s important to the community to have that,” she said. “It gives a quality of life.”
To view data that compares solar production with energy consumption in the arena go to http://egauge7322.egaug.es/