Local co-operative seeing growth as interest in solar power rises
As more Regina residents and businesses become convinced of the power of solar, local startup Wascana Solar Co-operative has seen strong growth in its first year of operation.
“There are more and more people, either as individual homeowners or businesses or organizations, who are interested in converting to solar. You know, it really seems to be taking off,” said Susan Birley, vice president and founder of the organization.
Birley said the organization is responsible for nearly 400 solar panels going up across the Queen City since its first annual general meeting in June 2018, with its membership growing from around 30 people to nearly 100.
Those hundreds of solar panels include 115 panels recently installed on the roof of the Conexus Credit Union’s North Albert branch, the largest solar installation in Regina, Birley said. The panels are expected to generate 41.9 kilowatts of electricity each year, more than half the power the branch needs.
John Brazill, the director of large-scale projects for Wascana Solar Co-operative, said this was the organization’s first large-scale installation. Members purchased shares in the project through the co-operative, putting up enough money to buy the solar panels. The power generated by the panels will be sold to SaskPower, and Conexus gets the benefit of a green roof without having to invest in the solar equipment.
When the call went out to the organization’s members about investing in the Conexus partnership, Brazill was surprised to see 39 people jump on the opportunity.
“People get the idea of supporting a non-carbon project,” he said. “If they can do something small and get involved and actually contribute to a different type of energy investment, then they’re anxious to do it.”
The remaining 278 solar panels installed in the last year came from the organization’s first group buy, where residents who wanted to convert their homes to solar power bought panels in bulk at a discounted rate.
With the first group buy such a success, Birley said the organization is already working on its second group buy and hopes to launch a third in the fall.
“We’re at a good time right now to get some more projects going,” she said. “Southern Saskatchewan is just in the sweet spot for solar energy generation. We have so many more hours of sunlight than most of the rest of Canada.”
Brazill said more large-scale projects are also coming down the pipe, and the organization is always on the lookout for more partners.