Town of Raymond completes seven net-zero solar installations; on track for more in 2019

By Aaron Mahoney (@Mahones93 on Twitter)
December 8, 2018 - 1:30pm

RAYMOND – To kick off the Town of Raymond’s annual Old-Fashioned Christmas, they celebrated the completion of seven net-zero solar installations that will help them reach 100% of their operational electricity needs through solar power in 2019.

More than 1,164 solar panels are now generating power atop the Firehall, Town Public Works Shop, Aquatic Centre, Ice Arena, Victoria Sports Park and Golf Course and the Ridgewater Treatment Plant.

With the completion of the new Town Administration Building and Victoria Park Carports in the spring, Raymond will meet 100% of their operational electricity through solar.

868.7 megawatt hours of electricity will be produced in the first year for the Town of Raymond, and the average home uses about megawatt hours a year.

Raymond, the municipality of 4,252 people, has been taking steps in recent years to become one of the most environmentally conscious towns in Southern Alberta.

They’ve reduced water consumption and embraced the sun to become one of the first municipalities in North America to be electrically net-zero operationally, while also expanding stormwater retention capacity and enhancing waste management facilities.

Moving to solar in the way they have has been made possible through partnerships with the provincial government and ENMAX Corporation.

Through its subsidiaries, ENMAX makes, moves and sells electricity to residential, small business and large commercial customers.

Scott Alexander, with Solar Wind Renewable Energy, believes it’s very significant and not only from an environmental perspective.

“The ENMAX Solar Lease program combined with the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre program made the numbers work so well for the town that they can offset their energy and costs at the same time.”

Other towns and villages near Raymond have been taking advantage and moving forward with solar as well.

“I know Jason [Atkinson] and the folks at ENMAX have been working considerably hard with towns like Warner. Warner will have almost 1 kilowatt installed solar in the town for every resident pretty soon here. The Village of Sterling also did the same, they have four municipal buildings with solar on them and then we’re installing a 178-kilowatt ground mount to offset things like street lights and other municipal electric loads,” Alexander said.

Atkinson, the Director of Operations Distributed Generation at ENMAX, helps coordinate and create the ENMAX solar program.

He says it’s been roughly a year that they’ve been working together with the Town of Raymond.

“What happened is we finished Cardston last fall, got a couple of their facilities net-zero, and Curtis Pratt the CEO in Raymond had talked to their CEO Jeff Shaw and asked them how they did it,” he explained. “Jeff mentioned they worked with ENMAX, and then after they gave us a call, I went down to meet with Curtis to do a feasibility on the entire town and the municipal buildings they have. They put forward a proposal and council there voted unanimously to move forward in December of last year.”

ENMAX has over 50% of the total installed solar installations in all of Alberta right now, and the programs Atkinson is overseeing help cities, towns and villages get to net-zero electrically.

“Which we’ve already helped Warner and Stirling achieve, basically what’s happening is the solar will produce what they consume annually as a municipality including their street lights.

There’re currently six others that we’re working with to do the same thing too, but Raymond is kind of the first one to adopt and do as much as they’ve done.

“To actually take the steps to be the first municipality to become net-zero electrically with their municipal building and offset their street lighting. That’s a gamechanger, that’s not been done anywhere in Canada that I know of,” Atkinson said.

What they’re going to do is, the solar will produce about 1,252-megawatt hours a year and their actual consumption is about 1,200-megawatt hours a year.

Atkinson says they’ve hedged a little bit there due to the fact Raymond has some expansion initiatives coming.

“We’ve added a bit more solar than needed to accommodate that, what that means is they will now on an annual basis produce as much with the solar as they use with their municipal building. That’s part of Phase 1, Phase 2 is under construction right now and it’s going to be a big carport that’s going to offset all their street lighting. They’ve got a new town hall that was added late, so we ended up adding it into the roster.”

The other thing that Atkinson believes is really neat is the Ridgewater Water Treatment Plant, which is the co-op that feeds water for Warner County, Stirling, Warner and Raymond who manages it.

“We’ve also put a 288-kilowatt solar system there so it’s net-zero electrically as well on an annual basis. Not only have they stepped up for what’s within their town borders, but they’ve also stepped up and moved forward with putting it at the treatment plant which everyone will benefit from,” Atkinson stated.

And it’s not just municipalities taking advantage of growing solar power, Southern Alberta as a whole in different industries is leading the way.

“Even if you look in the agricultural sector, we’ve constructed about 60 ground mount systems on irrigation pivots, all in Southern Alberta on various farms. It’s really taken off, and we figure we may even double the installation on irrigation pivots this year. It used to be with microgeneration, it was the north that was leading but now what we’re seeing is the solar should be going in Southern Alberta,” Atkinson said.

Down in our neck of the woods, you get about six sun hours on average a year annually, according to Atkinson, and you can compare that to a place like Germany that only gets 4.4 hours.

“And they’ve got the most solar capacity installed. So, you look at it and wonder why we weren’t taking advantage of that resource, but now we are.”

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