Thanks for the petrol tax dollars

Re: ‘Evan Saugstad: Life’s always sunnier when someone else is footing the bill,’ Op-ed, July 26, 2018

Mr. Saugstad’s recent article cast a barrage of stone age scrutiny in the direction of recent solar innovations occurring within the small community of Hudson’s Hope.

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In short summary, several municipal buildings in Hudson’s Hope have been electrically bolstered by the installation of approximately 500 kW of photovoltaic solar panels funded though a $1.35 million dollar grant from the Strategic Priorities Fund and the Federal Gas Tax Fund. Guess what? Unlike Site C, that half-asphyxiated goose, this project was already paid for by every single person who has left their vehicle running for several hours in the parking lot of their favourite coffee shop during the deep freeze of a northern winter. It probably wasn’t even good coffee.

Thanks for the petrol tax dollars. Take solace that a substantial amount of funds for infrastructure improvements was actually allocated to our region.

The solar project wasn’t without its own element of controversy; continually railing against the norm. It employed engineers, designers, fabricators, electricians, equipment operators, and an installation team, several of which were secondary students, all local to the Peace Region. I believe that the only environmental catastrophe to occur was that a donut may have broken into someone’s cuppa during a smoke break and was barely edible.

We’re hardly at the early adopter stage of solar power generation. It’s a very mature form of technology with 143 gigawatts of Large Scale Solar (meaning at the scale and reliability of a utility) online as of late 2017. With another 140 gigawatts currently under construction. Data sources are according to “http://wiki-solar.org”, a leading solar power database and informational resource.

If the general populace also endorses a flat earth mindset, as Mr. Saugstad apparently does, innovation will never happen. For what it's worth a flat earth is a geographical impossibility given the depth of Fort St. John's potholes.

I believe that Hudson’s Hope has done a magnificent job of thinking outside of the box. A “round” box perhaps?

— John-Paul McCarthy, Hudson's Hope 

Solar power delivers good ROI

In his column, Saugstad criticizes the Hudson’s Hope community solar project as uneconomical and unnecessary. “Does it make sense fiscally?” he asks.

Yes it does. Solar power, thanks to unprecedented reductions in cost coupled with improvements in efficiency and reliability, now makes economic sense at any level: home, small business, large business, or municipal. Which is why, contrary to Mr. Saugstad’s belief, there is a rush to go solar all over the world at each of these levels of use.

For a home that uses quite a bit of Step 2 power (as do most modern homes), you begin to make a 4 to 5 per cent return on your investment as soon your solar array begins making electricity. This return on investment comes in the form of electrical bills you don’t pay.

That’s considered a good return on investment, and that’s at today’s electrical rates. The return will increase over time in direct proportion to the inevitable increases in regular electrical rates for power supplied by BC Hydro. Plus, you retain the asset of the solar equipment, which adds to the value of your home or business.

When you move to very large solar power systems, as Hudson’s Hope has done, economies of scale kick in and the cost per installed watt drops, increasing that return on investment. The fact is, it makes fiscal sense for Hudson’s Hope to go solar even if it hadn’t been paid for by a federal grant.

“It’s still much cheaper,” says Saugstad, “to buy electricity from BC Hydro than generate it oneself; electricity that’s arguably just as green and clean as what comes from these panels.”

Well, as outlined above, it most certainly is not cheaper to buy grid electricity, and in BC that will only get worse. BC Hydro is spending $2 billion a year over the next 10 years just to bring BC’s antique grid up to modern standards. Add in the cost of Site C and you can expect that your hydro bills will continue to steadily increase into the future, just as it has in the past.

Meanwhile, those with solar power on their roofs will continue to enjoy low cost electricity, because their self-generated power will be immune to price hikes.

— Don Pettit, Dawson Creek 

© Copyright Alaska Highway News

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