02-Dec-2020- Regina SK
WSC Past, Present and Future
Wascana Solar Co-operative's President, Josh Campbell reflects on the organization's past, present and future direction.
Wascana Solar Co-op (WSC) began with two grassroots community meetings in Regina - one in early 2017 at the Cathedral Community Centre and the other later that same year at the Artful Dodger in the Heritage Neighbourhood. It was at these meetings that our two foundational programs were born - Solar Investment Opportunity (SIO) and Group Buy (GB).
With our SIO program, co-op members purchase preferred shares ($1,000 each). We then reach out to potential partners who offer us space to install our systems. We help our partners “go green” while they pay us the cost of their power usage. We anticipate good returns with this program which is a benefit to all interested in solar energy investment, but especially those who don’t have the space or capital available to install their own panels.
We partnered with Conexus Credit Union and MiEnergy for our first SIO, installing 115 solar panels on the roof of the North Albert Conexus branch. We are currently exploring our second SIO installation here in Regina and expect to be offering an investment opportunity very soon. If you would like to learn more about our SIO program please visit the following website: https://www.wascanasolarco-op.com/investment-opportunities.
In our GB program we organize a group of our members interested in purchasing panels, gather the technical requirements for solar projects, then tender it out in a Request for Proposal. In our first group buy we estimate that our group of 13 members collectively saved $67,000 off of the market rate on our panel purchases and installation (that’s an average of $5,000 each).
To date, we have installed 353 solar panels through our three GB program. We are planning our fourth GB kick-off in early 2021. If you would like to learn more about our GB program please visit this website: https://www.wascanasolarco-op.com/group-buy.
In our mere 28-months of incorporated existence as a co-operative, we have installed 468 panels in southern Saskatchewan through our SIO and GB programs. This is an estimated reduction of 150 tons of CO2 per year.
(380 kW/module * 468 modules * ~1300 kWh/kW installed * .65 kg/kWh CO2 emitted in 2015 = ~150 tons CO2 = ~150,000 kg CO2)
In only our first year of incorporation as a co-operative (2018-2019), WSC installed a total of 398 panels through our SIO and GB programs.
While some of this success was due in part to government subsidies at both the provincial and federal level, a very significant contributing factor was the 1:1 net-metering program in place by SaskPower. The restructuring of this program into a net-billing program (more like 0.5:1) has devastated the solar energy industry in our province.
This is evident in a recent Regina Leader-Post article which spoke of an over 600% decrease in solar energy applications since the inception of the new net-billing program.
In spite of this change, WSC remains confident in our ability to achieve our vision of "acting as a catalyst for growth in solar power." Both our SIO and GB programs still offer some of the most economical ways that Saskatchewanians can decrease their carbon footprints.
In the past year we had a bit of a board shuffle. Leaving our group was Paul Levasseur, John Brazill, Donna Nelson and WSC co-founder Susan Birley. All four of these people helped make our organization what it is today and we wouldn’t be in the optimistic position we are without them.
Added to our board were three new members: Shanon Zachidniak, Will Ingenthron and Dennis Snyder. Dennis is our new treasurer, Shannon our new vice-president and Will, the director of our GB program.
Recently Shanon was also elected a Regina City Councillor. We are thrilled to have someone from our board on council, especially as Regina seeks to become 100% renewable by 2050. We are also thrilled to have Will Ingenthron join our board as GB director. Will brings a plethora of knowledge and experience in the solar industry. He obtained his Industrial Systems Engineering degree at the University of Regina and also sits on the Saskatchewan Electric Vehicle Association board. He helped establish a solar co-op in another province and has worked in the solar industry for a number of years. To utilize Will’s skillset, we created a contractor position for him through which the GB program is now run.
Thanks to Co-operatives First, we have been given an opportunity to revise our business plan with the help of a consultant. Discussing our new plan is energizing. While we can’t get into too much detail at this point, we can mention a few things that we are looking at. One of these is an energy monitoring program that would work in a similar way as our GB program. This program would enable those who wanted to assess their energy use throughout one calendar year so that the site specific project economics could be evaluated and guide the property owner to better understand their project economics.
Another exciting option that we are looking at is an industrial behind the meter opportunity. Industrial-size Solar Investment projects such as the Saskatchewan Environmental Society Solar Co-op’s partnership with CNH Industrial in Saskatoon appear to be cost effective if an industrial project partner can be found. We are considering possible partnerships in the Regina area at this time.
The government has promised a home renovation incentive of up to $20,000 that applies to solar power installations, and this is being monitored by WSC.
In addition to residential use, the GB program could also include one or more commercial projects. Please contact Will Ingenthron for more information at 639-999-5995.
Under the direction of Andrew Tait, our second SIO installation is coming up soon. If you would like more information about this upcoming opportunity, please visit our website and/or contact Andrew at 306-201-6107.