Environment File: solar talk, grant party, and coyotes


Banking on the sun

Want to make greenbacks off of green power? A free talk next week will show you how Albertans now have new ways to invest in solar power.

The Solar Energy Society of Alberta is holding a free talk Monday on solar investment opportunities. The talk is part of its ongoing lecture series on renewable energy.

While many people are interested in going solar, a mere third of Albertans actually own a property that’s fit to host a solar panel, said Rob Harlan, executive director of the solar energy society. You can pay companies like Bullfrog Power to buy green power on your behalf, but you won’t get that money back.

“This is for people who actually want to make a little bit of a return on their investment.”

Monday’s talk will feature an expert panel that will discuss the different ways Albertans can make money off of solar power.

Jennifer Macdonald of the investment group CoPower will talk about green bonds, which are a relatively new investment option in Canada.

Macdonald said green bonds are bonds offered by big companies or governments to fund specific green initiatives, typically an energy retrofit or wind power installation. Some offer a three to five per cent annual return.

Green bonds are a huge growth market, Macdonald said. A recent report from CIBC found that a record $3.8 billion of them were issued in Canada last year.

“I think that a lot of people want to see or want to know their bonds are being invested in something they believe in.”

Macdonald said these bonds can be tough to get, as they’re often snapped up by big investment firms. CoPower and your financial adviser can help you find them.

Green bonds are only green if they produce actual carbon offsets, Macdonald cautioned. Investors should insist on proof that this is the case before they turn over their dollars.

Warren Sarauer of the Solar Power Investment Cooperative of Edmonton will also be there to talk about solar co-ops, Harlan said. Co-ops are an emerging option in Alberta where investors put down cash to own part of a larger solar system (say, one module) and earn returns for their investment.

Solar power is a stable investment with a long lifespan, little upkeep, and predictable prices, Harlan said.

“Alberta’s already witnessed how little control we have over oil prices here,” he said.

“We don’t have those kinds of ups and downs with solar energy.”

The talk starts at 7 p.m. this Jan. 15 in MacEwan University’s CN Theatre (Building 105). Visit solaralberta.ca for details.

Grant party

There’s an eco-grant party going on this February, and everyone’s invited.

The City of St. Albert is holding a celebration this Feb. 1 to commemorate 10 years of Environmental Initiatives Grants.

Established in 2007, these now-annual grants help St. Albert residents undertake projects that enhance, conserve, and protect the natural environment. Some 115 projects have been funded, including (in this most recent round of grants) a tool library and a real-time energy monitor at Bellerose Composite.

The city has invited all previous grant recipients to come to Progress Hall next month for a celebration of all the grants have accomplished, said city environmental co-ordinator Meghan Myers. The event will include displays and talks on past grant projects, large novelty cheques for the 2017 recipients, and cake.

Many of the ideas backed by past grants have now gone mainstream, said Tanya Doran, chair of the city’s Environmental Advisory Committee (which oversees this grant). Water-bottle refill stations are now commonplace in schools, for example, and the province is also now backing solar panels, which were the subject of some of the program’s largest grants.

Doran said she hoped the celebration would inspire residents to come up with new ideas for this year’s round of grants.

The celebration starts at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 1 at the Arden Theatre’s Progress Hall. Guests should RSVP by Jan. 29 at https://goo.gl/KMPYEL.

On coyotes

Residents shouldn’t worry if they see coyotes on city streets this winter, say officials.

As is usual this time of year, the Gazette has received a query from a resident about what to do when they see a coyote in the city.

The answer is not much, said city environment manager Christian Benson.

“Unless they’re acting aggressive or look sick, you can just let them be.”

Under the city’s integrated pest management plan, crews ignore animals in town unless they are sick, injured, aggressive, or actively harming city infrastructure. If they are, it’s time to call in Alberta Fish and Wildlife, Benson said.

Benson said the city gets many calls about urban coyotes around this time of year. They don’t track coyote sightings, but are thinking about doing so to map out coyote migration routes.

Coyotes show up in cities more often in winter for several reasons, said Colleen Cassady St. Clair, who runs the Edmonton Urban Coyote Project at the University of Alberta, in an email. There are more of them, as that year’s newborns have grown up, and they’re cold and hungry, which draws them to cities with their warm buildings and plentiful food.

Coyotes provide many useful services in cities such as rodent control, St. Clair said. You can usually leave them alone, but if you see one that’s aggressive or nonchalant around people, yell at them to discourage them from becoming habituated to people.

Edmontonurbancoyotes.ca has more on this subject.


About Author

Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.