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Eco-Solar Tour shines again

St. Albert resident touts net-zero warehouse
NET-ZERO WAREHOUSE — An aerial view of the Hi-Tech Seals building in Edmonton. Featured on the 2023 Eco-Solar Home Tour, the building has no heat and effectively no electricity bills due to its extensive use of solar panels and heat pumps. LEIGH BOND/Photo

A St. Albert resident will reveal how he turned his brother’s warehouse into a money-saving machine this June as part of a province-wide showcase of net-zero buildings.

The Eco-Solar Home Tour returns to Alberta this June. This free annual event sees some 2,000 guests visit some of the most energy-efficient buildings in Alberta to learn how they can cut energy bills in their own homes. The tour features buildings in the Edmonton (June 3-4), Calgary (June 10-11), Lethbridge (June 17), and Canmore (June 3) regions.

Buildings create about 18 per cent of Canada’s heat-trapping pollution, Natural Resources Canada reports. That pollution must reach net-zero levels as soon as possible if we are to head off the droughts and forest fires linked to global heating.

The tour lets guests talk to homeowners about the different technologies in their homes and the challenges of getting them to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, said Andrew Mills, president of the Eco-Solar Home Tour Society of Alberta.

“A lot of people come away from our tour inspired to do their own renovations.”

One such person is Sturgeon County’s Barbara Girouard. Inspired by the Eco-Solar Tour, Girouard said she and her husband are building a super-efficient home near Calahoo, and will be showing it off as part of this year’s tour. Once finished, the home will have triple-pane windows, plenty of insulation, an air-to-water heat pump, fire-resistant cement board siding, and no gas line.

“We’re completely off of gas,” Girouard said, and they plan to add solar panels soon to offset their electricity use too.

This year’s Edmonton tour includes 15 sites, Mills said. Many of them are old homes made ultra-efficient with the Energiesprong technique, which (roughly speaking) sees designers renovate homes by bolting new insulated walls to their outsides. The Lethbridge tour features the Village of Stirling, which became the first net-zero electricity village in Canada after it built a whole lot of solar.

“They’ve reduced their annual electric bill from $30,000 to a credit of $7,000, and that pays for their fire department,” Mills said.

High-tech building

New to the tour is the Hi-Tech Seals building in Edmonton — a 32,000 square-foot net-zero office and warehouse facility that has no heating costs and a near-zero electricity bill thanks to the improvements made by St. Albert resident Leigh Bond.

Bond, owner of Boundless Renewables Consulting, said he put a geothermal system into this facility 17 years ago, which is owned by his brother, Jim. Impressed by its energy savings and needing to replace the roof, Jim recently asked Bond to make some additional improvements to the place.

“He’s not motivated because he’s a green guy,” Bond said of his brother.

“He’s motivated because it saves money.”

Bond said the facility now has plenty of insulation, 15 ground-source heat pumps, and a gigantic 248 kW solar array to power everything. Crews also painted the roof white to boost the output of the array’s double-sided solar panels by about 15 per cent.

Bond said a host of government incentives and Edmonton’s Clean Energy Improvement Program (which lets people pay for energy efficiency upgrades over time through property taxes) will allow his brother to recoup the cost of these upgrades in about seven years. Since the building will last about 50, that means serious savings.

Bond said there were about 1,400 commercial buildings like his brothers around Edmonton, “and most of them are energy pigs.” Making them more energy efficient is an easy way to address global heating.

Mills said going net-zero like many of the homes on this tour gives homeowners a chance to eliminate their gas and electricity bills. He personally owns a net-zero home, and got a $251 credit on his electricity bill in 2021.

“You can erase your bills by going net zero.”

Visit for details on the tour.

Kevin Ma

About the 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.
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