Hudson’s Hope Leads the Way in Solar
B.C.’s Largest Municipal Solar Project Set to Complete
Hudson’s Hope is a small rural community in Northeast BC with a big vision. They are in the final steps of a unique project: the installation of 500kw of grid-tied solar panels onto their municipal buildings. At an investment of over 1M, this is largest solar array for any municipality in BC and marks Hudson’s Hope as a leader in energy sustainability in the region.
Urban Systems has been part of their journey from the initial brainstorming stage through to project management and oversight of the actual build.
“It’s been exciting to help make this vision a reality,” says municipal engineer Eric Sears, who took a lead role in project management. “We’ve been there through initial concepts, a feasibility study, scoping, procurement, contracts and project management.”
Eric says that the spark for the idea appeared soon after Hudson’s Hope began searching for ways to offset electricity costs and innovate. As the fastest growing energy source in the world, solar power was of great interest to the municipality. The cost of solar has decreased by more than 80% over the past 8 years. Once the idea for the solar array was generated, the District applied for a provincial gas tax grant and was successful in receiving $1.35 million dollars through the Union of BC Municipalities.
“As far as municipal local government is concerned, there’s nothing that’s been done with solar that’s even close to this scale,” says Eric. “I think it’s a great model for other communities to follow. There is a real sense of community pride around this. Residents are all on board and some even approached contractors during the build to say, ‘Hey, while you’re here, can you put some solar panels on my home too?’”
Students Step Up
Solar designers / installers Peace Energy Renewable Energy Cooperative and Moch Electric Ltd. co-built the power systems, and they got some help from local students in putting it all together.
During the procurement process for contractors, one question asked of potential contracting companies was how they would involve the community. Peace Energy Renewable Energy Cooperative came up with the idea to generate community capacity by training and hiring high school students from Hudson’s Hope High School. The students would get training and hands on experience to actually install the solar panels.
“The students were put through courses and put on solar installation teams. Once they were trained, they were ultimately the ones who put this all together. It’s not like in other projects where guys are brought in from another province and then are gone after the build—they’ve built a long-lasting legacy in the community by involving these students.”
Chief Administration Officer of Hudson’s Hope, Tom Matus, says that the solar panels are projected to operate with little to no maintenance for at least 30 years, and that the corresponding reduction in District electricity costs will be in the range of $70,000 per year, or $3M over 30 years.
The project is well underway and projected to be complete by the end of this year.