Environment File

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About one in 10 Alberta homes could have solar panels on their roofs by 2030, says a former St. Albert resident.

Paula McGarrigle of Solas Energy Consulting presented a summary of the Alberta Solar Market Outlook report this week at the Solar West conference in Edmonton.

The study, commissioned by the Canadian Solar Industries Association, was the first detailed look at the size of Alberta’s solar power market in 2030.

McGarrigle, who used to live in St. Albert, said Alberta could realistically expect to get about six per cent of its power from solar energy by 2030 based on current programs, growth rates, land availability, building stock, and the experience of other jurisdictions – equivalent to 4.3 gigawatts.

That doesn’t sound like much, but that’s a giant leap from the 0.016 GW we have now, said McGarrigle.

“To go to 4.3 GW in 14 years, that’s a huge amount of growth.”

Alberta is late to the game when it comes to solar, but has a huge amount of land and daylight available to tap, McGarrigle said. Alberta would likely have 1.5 times more solar power than Ontario does today by 2030, and could easily get more than six per cent of its power from the sun with the right policies.

“The huge growth is going to be on the utility-scale side,” she said, in the form of big, multi-acre arrays. Homes would see a lot of panels installed, but those panels wouldn’t produce much actual power.

About 12 per cent of Alberta homes should have solar panels by 2030, McGarrigle estimated. Just four to seven per cent of commercial buildings would, as most were restricted by ownership, roof structure and shading.

The plummeting cost of solar means that Alberta could potentially see U.S.-levels of growth in the next few years, McGarrigle said.

“I put solar on my house three years ago, and I probably could have put it on for half the cost today,” she said.

Alberta would prevent about 3.5 megatonnes of emissions by getting six per cent of its power from solar, McGarrigle said. That is the equivalent to that produced by about 370,000 homes or one coal power plant in a year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates.

The province should consider creating solar-ready guidelines for commercial buildings (such as roof support requirements) to ensure more can support solar, and craft policies to support commercial-scale solar projects, McGarrigle said. She also called for the province to consider allowing solar projects to be built on Crown land.

“This could be a very large market,” she told conference-goers.

“We’re not short on the resource, and we’re not short on land.”

St. Albert sailors can float their boats with ease now that the city has installed a new boat launch on the Sturgeon.

City crews installed a $16,000 floating T-shaped aluminium boat launch on the Sturgeon River by the Big Lake Environment Support Society shelter earlier this month.

The launch was built in response to longstanding requests from residents for a formal launch point at Riel Recreation Park, said city community recreation co-ordinator Erin Pickard. They did a test run with it last fall, and officially installed it in the first week of May.

Previously, the only way to launch a boat on the Sturgeon was to wade into up to two feet of mud by the BLESS shelter, said BLESS chairperson Al Henry. (The dock by Chateau Mission Court was dismantled ages ago.) Some residents had thrown down wood pallets for support, but those were hazardous to walk upon. Six to 10 canoes and kayaks launch from this spot on some weekends.

Henry thanked the city for the new launch, and said it would open up Big Lake to more canoe and kayak users.

“It’s something that’s been needed for a long time.”

Crews will put out the launch each spring and remove it each fall from now on, Pickard said. Check the sign by the dock for rules on its use.

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