Cowichan Valley Regional District looking into solar demo project

Solar panels coming to a Cowichan Valley Regional District facility near you?

Maybe. In January Peter Nix and the Cowichan Carbon Busters requested that the CVRD support the proliferation of solar installations in the Cowichan Valley, both philosophically and financially. The matter was handed to CVRD board chair Jon Lefebure to create a report on what direction the regional district could take with regard to solar.

Lefebure came back to the board with four recommendations, chief among them that the district look into the possibility of creating a high-profile solar demonstration project on a CVRD building, and that the project include options for community buy-in.

Other recommendations from his report included thanking Nix and the Carbon Busters for bringing their plan to the CVRD and supporting the CVRD’s goal of taking action on climate change.

It was also recommended that staff review the building code to identify any changes that may be required to facilitate solar energy installations, and support staff efforts to incorporate a Climate Action Plan into the Regional Integrated Planning Strategy, using work already done by municipal partners where possible.

The board unanimously supported all of Lefebure’s recommendations.

Nix and the Carbon Busters had suggested the CVRD could be more directly financially involved in helping to fund household solar installation in the region through a provincial carbon tax and revolving loan fund, among other options.

"I didn’t find this to be a viable model," Lefebure said, explaining that the regional district has no say over carbon taxes, and setting up loan funds could be problematic.

However, "climate change demands action," he said, and it’s clearly time to act. Climate action also reduces costs he pointed out.

"It’s very obvious right now that it’s seen as a major opportunity to reduce reliance on fossil fuels," Lefebure said of solar.

Solar can be a good complement to hydro power, he said, and can help meet peak demand if coupled with storage systems, the technology for which is moving fast.

Tesla Motors chief Elon Musk launched a new storage battery for solar installations just this spring.

Lefebure talked about several solar installation projects, including the one on his own house comprised of 17 panels.

They cost $10,700 he said, and are one year old. In that time he’s gotten a 5.8 per cent return on the investment.

The formula for commercial installations is different, he cautioned, with a lesser rate of return, but "I definitely believe in the economics of it," he said.

Staff will now examine opportunities for solar within the CVRD and report back to the board at a future date.