With steep energy cost increases and an increased awareness of the affects of climate change, homeowners around the world are looking for alternatives to power their homes more efficiently.
In Peace River’s back yard is a company that offers the opportunity to explore solar power and becoming a part of a cooperative that promises to help extend the solar generation opportunities in the entire region.
Peace Energy a Renewable Energy Cooperative (PEC) executive director Donald Pettit says although based in Dawson Creek, BC, the company once had a satellite office in Peace River, AB (hoping to re-establish it in the near future) and they service the entire Peace River bioregion in Northeastern British Columbia and Northwestern Alberta.
“We are an incorporated for-profit cooperative,” he explains. “Our cooperative values (one person one vote, people before profit, a strong environmental ethic) are incorporated into everything we do. Very different from a regular corporation where profit is absolutely everything.”
PEC is currently working on one of Western Canada’s first cooperatively owned solar farms called the Peace River Energy Project. Its members will have an opportunity to invest in the project for a return on their investment.
“There is a lot of interest in investing in our Peace River Energy Project (PREP),” says Pettit.
“We now have about 640 members, and want to add more before the share offering to our members to finance and build PREP,” he adds. “The more members we have, the more capital we can raise to build more renewable energy projects.”
PREP will be a half megawatt (half MW) solar farm that will feed power into the grid near Peace River. Pettit says the anticipated cost of the project will be $10 million, and will feature roughly 12,000 solar panels on 37 acres of rural pasture land. Their innovative plan will also include agricultural activities at the solar farm, which he suggests could include sheep to keep vegetation down, beekeeping and other interesting endeavours.
“We were leaders and originators of the 102 MW Bear Mountain Wind Park project, B.C.’s first commercial wind facility,” says Pettit.
“We worked on that for six years and continue to receive income from it.”
He explains they also led the development of British Columbia’s first educational facility dedicated to clean energy tech called Energy House at the Dawson Creek campus of Northern Lights College.
“We have become one of Western Canada’s most qualified solar designers, providers and installers,” he says.
“We created B.C.’s largest municipal solar project in Hudson’s Hope, a 1.4-MW of solar on nine municipal facilities.”
PEC is also currently working with multiple municipalities in the Smoky River Region to design arrays that could come to fruition if large grant application funding is successful.
As an incentive for homeowners, the federal government currently has the Canada Greener Homes Grant that will give consumers up to $5,000 towards a home solar power system.
“Solar equipment comes with excellent 12-to-25-year warranties,” Pettit says.
“The investment you make in solar will give you a four to eight per cent return on your solar investment from money saved on your electrical bills, better than most investments. It protects you from grid power rate hikes for decades to come and it increases the resale value of our home.”
Pettit says solar energy also helps fight climate change because it produces no pollution during the operation.
“Soon they will be made entirely with renewable energy, at which point their carbon footprint will be near zero,” he explains.
“They benefit consumers who invest in solar for their home or business or farm. Costs have come down dramatically over the last decade, while reliability, warranties and quality have improved,” he adds.
Pettit says solar panels are quick and easy to install, produce and distribute and have very little maintenance compared to the money they save on electrical bills. He says the simple payback with Greener Homes Grant is 10-12 years.
“Money saved is better than money earned because it is non-taxable,” he says.
“And the solar increases the value of your home, while paying for itself and saving you money every day.”
Many homeowners are also seeking information or installation of solar panels to offset their electric vehicle charging. Pettit says they have completed many installations at homes in Dawson Creek, Fort St. John, and Peace River, many of those homeowners have included extra panels to charge their electric vehicle. Pettit says this eliminates the vehicle fuel costs forever.
The team at PEC include Pettit, solar designer Greg Dueck, office administrator Tammy Lawrence, solar installer Ron Moch, board president Joanne Dueck, and an elected board of members.
The business nestled in the beautiful winding arms of the Peace River is set to help people learn about, discover, and embrace solar power generation.
For additional information about available homeowner installation grants, becoming a member of PEC or for additional information about solar or wind energy, visit www.peaceenergy.ca.
By Emily Plihal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Mar 02, 2023