Solar success: panels on the way to Cowichan

A $125,000 bulk buy of solar panels is only the first step in a larger vision that aims to wean Cowichan Valley residents off of energy produced by oil, gas and coal said Cowichan Carbon Buster Peter Nix.

Nix was exuberant in making the announcement that 30 homeowners have now officially signed on to begin producing solar energy for their houses.

"People are just flocking," he said.

Those getting in on the ground floor will get their panels at 25 per cent off the normal price.

The panels have been ordered from EfstonSolar by Viridian Energy Co-operative in Duncan, through the efforts of the Cowichan Carbon Busters.

Nix said one of the most important pieces of the puzzle is that it’s now financially viable to start producing solar energy.

The idea is that households can make money.

They do this by selling their solar electricity to the BC Hydro grid when the sun shines and buy it back when they are producing less, as part of BC Hydro’s netmetering policy.

Alternative energy is a must, Nix said, because people are not going to reduce their demand for energy.

"This is just the first step in the formation of a citizen-owned Cowichan Renewable Energy Cooperative," said Nix.

"Once citizens are aware that they can make a profit generating solar electricity, the next logical step will be to use that energy to power electric cars and heat our homes and eliminate the need for fossil fuels."

A workshop on Oct. 25 from 2-4 p.m. at the Heritage Hall at the Island Savings Centre will explain solar technology and the plan to set up the co-op. Nix is hoping for a big crowd.

"I just think there’s a lot of support out there," he said.

But he’s not stopping at the household level.

Once the co-op is up and running, Nix plans to take his arguments for solar energy production to the municipal and provincial levels.

Most B.C. municipalities have signed the BC Climate Action Charter, he said, and so already have a goal of getting away from dependence on fossil fuels.

"It is critical to phase out fossil fuels to stabilize our climate and allow our kids’ generation to thrive," said Nix. "For example, the Municipality of North Cowichan has adopted a plan to reduce the entire community’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent before 2050. As an act of leadership, Mayor Jon Lefebure has already installed solar panels on his own house."

He wants to see the formation of a publicly-owned renewable energy utility in the municipality.

"By producing their own renewable energy, municipalities could earn money for their public and so lower taxes," he explained.

In the meantime, Nix is putting his money where his mouth is.

He has ordered 200 solar panels and is scoping out where he can allocate the 3,000 square feet in his backyard that are needed to set up his own small solar farm.

His plans for the solar farm include setting up a citizen-led solar energy cooperative that can sell shares to its members, giving people more independence from BC Hydro.