Group aims to flip the switch on Cowichan solar panel co-op

Cowichan Carbon Buster Peter Nix says now is the time to make the switch to solar energy, and his group is setting up a solar panel society in Cowichan to get people on board.

"I think it’s time to get excited," Nix said, explaining that his enthusiasm is the result of a presentation he went to at an energy conference on Saltspring Island four months ago.

That’s where he heard from a solar panel contractor some dollar figures that have him considering building a small solar farm in his own yard, as well as stirring up community support for solar.

"In 2014 this is the first year we could actually make money by having our own solar electricity at our homes. It’s competitive with BC Hydro rates," he said.

They’ve already held two meetings with about 25 people each, and he has a list of 100 people who are potentially interested he said.

The goal is to create a solar energy co-op, where people can get together and do bulk buys of equipment to make the cost outlay palatable for more people. "Our objective is to make solar panels available at a competitive cost and thereby to spread their rapid installation at homes and commercial locations throughout Cowichan," said Nix.

Gabriola Island has set up a society for just that purpose, he said.

But Nix has his sights set even higher in the long term.

He’d like to see an Island-wide co-op, and to get the municipalities involved. Due to legislation put in place under Gordon Campbell, municipalities can now set up public renewable energy utilities, he said, and that’s his aim. There’s precedent, Nix said, pointing to the community of Kimberley, which has set up a solar public energy utility.

The need to switch to renewable energy to combat climate change isn’t new, Nix said.

"It’s crisis time," he said. "The science is very bad; we have to act now."

He calls recent figures showing renewable energy is now competitive with traditional energy sources and can create jobs for people "manna from heaven", in convincing more people to take action.

"They can make money and they can save their children’s future," he said.

With solar, people can earn money by selling solar electricity to BC Hydro, decrease the need for the controversial Site C dam, and take personal action on climate change.

Imagine, Nix said, getting an electric car and being able to charge it at home with your own solar power.

For those interested in getting into solar there will be a solar photo-voltaic demonstration and sign-up sheet at the Green Party booth at the Cowichan Exhibition Sept. 5, 6 and 7, though the Green Party is not officially affiliated with the initiative.

Nix is also aiming for a public meeting Sept. 27, probably in the Heritage Hall at the Island Savings Centre, though plans for that are not yet firm.