PENHOLD – The town has looked to the heavens and is receiving a profit, thanks to forward thinking entrepreneurship to seize a solar-powered opportunity.
Last October, the town completed its first solar panel project with 1,092 solar panels installed on the roof of the Penhold Regional Multiplex. The intent is to power the multiplex with electricity generated by solar power. Before solar power was turned on, the multiplex’s annual electrical bill was $150,000.
But today, town officials are already realizing a small profit with the multiplex’s new energy source.
“A small one, yes, but at the end of the day there is no cost to us to do this. We took advantage of the grant when it was there,” said mayor Mike Yargeau.
The $740,000 solar panel project was paid for in part through a $371,000 rebate (grant) from the former provincial NDP government. The town paid for the other half through a $370,000 loan that was financed by ENMAX.
The annual cost to the town for the loan is $33,876. However, the town expects to see annual savings of $45,000. When the $33,876 loan cost is paid the town sees a direct savings or profit of just over $11,000 through the loan’s 15-year term. When the total loan is paid off the total annual savings or profit for the town will then be $45,000.
Last week, Yargeau climbed up to the multiplex roof for the first time to take a look at the town’s investment, a project installed by Red Deer’s CBI Solar. “Everything is humming along and working great,” said Yargeau in response to the efficiency of the solar power system.
Best of all, the mayor noted the investment is about as secure as any organization could ever hope for.
“With us producing electricity it is pretty much a fixed thing,” he said. “I guess the dollar amounts could change but if anything we could be making more money a year. If electricity costs go up it just means we get paid more for the electricity we produce.”
Although the project has been running without interruption for just eight months Yargeau is already looking ahead for new solar energy possibilities.
“Absolutely. But my worry is that it has to make sense economically,” said Yargeau. “Smaller buildings you might not make that return because you don’t have the same amount of panels, but larger buildings? Absolutely, if you could put 500 to 1,000 solar panels on your roof and not pay an electricity bill and in fact make some money.”
The mayor said the town could look at the future public works buildings and maybe even the fire hall. “If you look at our long-term growth those would probably be the next two municipal buildings we need to look after,” said Yargeau.