Whistler2020 on the Ground 

Solar dazed in Whistler?

Whistlerites like the sun, but we may not know how much it likes us. Through this affair, the myth of a snowy, grey Whistler is perpetuated. This contemporary mountain town myth could be easily busted if Whistler is ready to embrace our friend, the sun.

"Hey, but solar systems can't work in Whistler, it's too cloudy and snowy here in the mountains," is the myth needing busting and the entire community is invited to participate.

Actually, Whistler has substantial capacity to benefit from solar hot water technology and other forms of renewable solar energy. On a grey, cool May day, Whistler's citizens, businesses and the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) worked together to turn up the heat on solar installations and education here, at Whistler Solar Day at Meadow Park Sports Centre.

Over 100 people turned out to help bust the myth that solar power is not viable in a snow-laden coastal mountain climate. Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) research indicates that Whistler's solar potential easily supports viable solar energy installations for our community. Whistler's solar potential (1001 kWh/kW) and mean daily global exposure to the sun's rays for potential solar infrastructure exceeds that of Berlin, Germany and Tokyo, Japan - two of the leading cities worldwide for installed solar capacity.

Well over 50 folks toured the brand new solar and ground source heating system at Meadow Park Sports Centre, a project nearing completion. This system uses the ambient heat of the earth to heat the Meadow Park pools using a heat pump. The solar panels are used to pre-heat the domestic hot water loads directly. The introduction of this system is designed to meet 75 per cent of the pool water heating needs and 35 per cent of the domestic heating needs.

Whistler builders RDC Fine Homes and Glacier Creek were on hand at Whistler Solar Day to demonstrate and explain some of the solar and energy efficiency technology being built into Whistler's new homes and renos.

Folks building new homes in Whistler may well be able to catch the rays to heat their water in the future. At their July 6 meeting, RMOW Council considered a staff report on a 'Solar Hot Water Ready' Regulation that would enable "a conduit run and an area of not less than 7.29 square metres designated for future installation of solar collectors for a solar hot water system."

Water heating typically accounts for approximately 15-20 per cent of residential energy use and 25-35 per cent of the household production of greenhouse gases. It is estimated that residential home water heating currently accounts for between 4,000 and 5,000 tCO2e annually. If 50 per cent of new single family residential construction leveraged the "solar ready" installation and ultimately installed a SHW system by the year 2020, greenhouse gas reductions versus standard construction have been estimated to be approximately 200 tonnes/year, Ted Battiston, RMOW Community Energy Manager reported.

Here in the mountains we dwell close to the sun and sky, but we also need to tune into the potential of solar energy. SolarBC has teamed up with Green Power Labs to provide free solar assessments for British Columbians available at Solar Rating Online. The SolarRating online tool is a fun way to find out how suitable your home is for solar hot water. As soon as you enter your address and postal code, the system knows you are in B.C. and a message comes up at the top of the screen.

SolarRating OnLine determines a homes' suitability to solar technology used either to heat water or to generate electricity. Suitability refers to the amount of energy it is possible to produce at a home using solar technology to reduce a family's long term energy costs by replacing a part of the current energy source - oil, gas, propane or grid electricity - with energy taken from the sun.

Recently, I completed the SolarRating Online for our family's Nesters Townhouse and was surprised to learn of the viability and value it could bring to our home. On average, water heating accounts for 25 to 30 per cent of residential energy use. In Whistler, solar hot water systems can save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by providing up to 60 per cent of the energy required for water heating.

To get your SolarRating Online go to http://www.solarbc.ca/install/households

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