Canada’s First Solar Powered College
The solar panels are up and running! An official grand opening and media launch took place on Saturday, April 18 @ 11:00 a.m. Many students, alumni, Nipawin community members and supports of Nipawin Bible College attended.
A media tour began at 9:30 am with Wes Fehr, college president, and Ryan Jansen, project engineer leading and answers questions.
The program began with a welcome & opening remarks by Mr. Wes Fehr, College President. Special dignitaries who attended to offer words of congratulations and endorsement included: Ms. Cindy Murphy representing Mr. Randy Hoback, M. P. – Prince Albert, SK; Mr. Fred Bradshaw M.L.A. for Carrot River Constituency; Mr. Dave Trann Mayor of the Town of Nipawin; Mr. Shawn Béasse SaskPower Director of Hydro & Renewables.
Before the ribbon cutting ceremony, Wes Fehr offered words and gifts of thanks to two individuals for their work and commitment to the project: project engineer and NBC board member Ryan Jansen and college supporter Ray Larson.
A lunch followed in Rempel Auditorium for all attendees.
Nipawin Bible College expects to be at “net-zero” electrical usage, making it the first college in Canada to power all of its campus facilities with solar power.
The 100 kW solar array went online in December 2014. At 7150 square feet of solar panels it is tied for the largest solar array in Saskatchewan and is also one of the largest solar arrays in Western Canada. Nipawin Bible College campus is an ideal venue for a project of this type: abundant land for ground level installation, unobstructed sunlight, convenient connection to existing facilities, and individually metered buildings.
The array consists of 399 solar panels, each measuring 65” x 40”. The entire installation is divided into four smaller arrays that connect to the electrical service in each major campus facility: Food Services, Auditorium/Student Centre, Education Centre, and Dormitories/Maintenance Shop.
The array will produce approximately 150,000 kWh per year. For perspective, the average home consumes about 8,000 kWh of electricity annually, so the whole array produces enough energy annually to power about 20 homes for one year.
How does the solar array work in conjunction with the SaskPower grid? The array is connected to the SaskPower grid at the four locations noted above. Special bi-directional, digital meters track power flow in each direction. Power produced by the array is subtracted from the power consumed from SaskPower to
arrive at an annual balance. (For safety reasons, the array is automatically disconnected from the power grid in the event of a SaskPower outage. Therefore, the array does not supply power to campus buildings during power outages. Also note that SaskPower does not give a credit at the end of the year with the 1:1 credit method.)
The net cost to install the array was just over $170,000. This translates to an installed cost of only $1.71/watt. In general, a build cost below $4/watt is very good and anything below $3/watt is almost unheard of. This low net cost was achieved through the generous donation of labour by many alumni, supporters and staff of the college, as well as a SaskPower Net Metering Rebate of $80,000.
With the college’s annual average electric utility cost at $17,000, and a net build cost of $170,000, the payback period will be 10 years. If SaskPower rates increase, the effective payback period will also be reduced. Additionally, the panels come with a warranty to maintain 80% of rated output for 25 years.
At Nipawin Bible College we are working to reduce our carbon footprint. The solar project is good stewardship environmentally and financially. Through other efforts, such as reducing heat loss in buildings, high-efficient furnaces, energy-efficient lighting, timers and motion sensors, and recycling collection, we seek to exercise good stewardship into the future.
environmental and financial stewardship in action
Media Coverage Links:
Nipawin Journal – http://www.nipawinjournal.com/2015/04/18/let-there-be-solar-light