Solar Initiative at the Recycling Depot

Next time you’re approaching the recycling depot from the east, look up.

Solar panels being mounted on the roof of one of the recycling depot buildings (top), local installation crew. 

Installation of 39 photovoltaic (PV) solar panels on the southeast facing side of the main recycling depot building was completed in 2015.

This project was the first major commercial solar electricity initiative on the Penders and was spearheaded by the local group, PSI 2020 (Pender Solar Initiative 2020) and funded primarily by a very generous grant from the Nu-To-Yu. Nu-To-Yu and PSI 2020 showed vision and exceptional leadership in pushing this pioneering clean energy project forward.

So you know, these solar panels generate approximately 9300 kWh of power, fully covering the recycling depots electric needs for one year, and then some.

But this solar single initiative is bigger than that, it is meant to be a demonstration project for the Pender Islands community, allowing residents and visitors to see real-life solar PV at work. This first undertaking has resulted in a local crew receiving training from GabEnergy (a Gabriola Island organization that helps local individuals and organizations install clean energy) on installing systems, training that is expected to be used numerous times in the future.

The goal of PSI 2020 is to see solar photovoltaic systems installed on the roof of every suitable public building on Pender by the year 2020 – school (done), library (done), medical clinic, fire hall.

Harnessing solar power continues to grow dramatically, approximately 50% per year during the past ten years.

Thanks are extended again to PSI 2020, Nu-To-Yu, CRD, Pender Island's Jamieson Electric and Pete Fennell Construction, and GabEnergy for helping the Penders take a giant stride into the realm of clean, renewable energy.

Clean and green. Who’s next?

Andy Nowak talking about alternative energy on the Penders and the recycling depot and PSI 2020 solar initiatives.

Click on the button for more information about Pender Island Recycling Depot solar production (Average Solar kWh/Day)

Solar Initiative FAQ

Can I see the recycle depot’s solar production online?
How many panels are there?
  • 39 panels (three rows of 13).

How much power does the system produce?
  • On a sunny day, the panels generate between 45 and 60 kWh (kiloWatt-hours). 

How much did the system cost?
  • The hardware was about $20,000, paid for by a grant from Nu-To-Yu. We also received grants from the CRD to cover labour costs and video production. Labour would normally have cost $5,000-$10,000. Labour costs were lower because of volunteer involvement.

Who sold us the system?
  • The hardware was purchased from GabEnergy, a non-profit solar group on Gabriola Island. GabEnergy also provided installation training and assisted with system design as part of the equipment purchase.

Who installed the system?
  • Jamieson Electric did the electrical work and Pete Fennel and his crew did the roof work. We also had numerous volunteers helping to manage the project and with hands-on work.

Where are the recycling depot’s storage batteries?
  • We use the electric grid connected to the recycling depot to store the electricity we generate from our solar panels. The PVs (photovoltaic panels) gather the photons, packets of energy in sunlight, to make electricity. They are all wired together and feed the electricity into the BC Hydro electric grid during the day (when it is sunny). The electricity grid is part of the North American power grid. We have a special meter that allows the electricity to flow into it and from there to the grid when we are making energy and flow back to us to use at the depot when we need it to power our machinery, radio, telephone, computer and lights. Early in the morning and late in the afternoon when there isn’t as much sunlight falling on the PVs, we must buy the electricity from BC Hydro. But on sunny days when the recycling depot is closed and doesn’t need power, the power generated flows into the meter and turns it backwards, allowing us to sell the power back to BC Hydro.

Does the solar array provide for all the recycling depot's energy needs?
  • Currently it does, but in the future this will depend on how much sunlight falls on the PV panels and how much energy the depot uses. If we use more than we create, we have to pay BC Hydro for it; if we make more power than we use, the meter runs backwards and BC Hydro has to pay us for the electricity.

Could I power my home with photovoltaics?
  • Although the price of PVs has come down dramatically in the past few years, most homes have many electrical appliances and some of them, like electric ovens, driers, refrigerators and freezers, use a lot of energy. A small, energy-efficient home may make most of the energy it requires during the summer when days are clear and sunny. On short winter days, you probably would need to use and pay for some grid power. It would depend upon how big your PV array is. The recycling depot doesn’t use much power so our system provides all of the energy we need.

  • The best way for you to find out what a PV system for your house would cost is for you to hire a professional to do a site assessment. This trained person will look at your average BC Hydro bill to figure out how big your system would have to be to reduce your annual electricity costs. An assessment will cost from $75 - $300 depending upon the size of your house and number of appliances, as well as the amount of shade, orientation of your building(s) and other variables. You might have to make some changes in your heating system or habits to reduce electrical usage and the cost of a system.

See Recycling Depot staff member

Anna Herlitz's story about the Pender Island Recycling Depot solar initiative in Solid Waste & Recycling magazine »

Pender Island Recycling Society

(250) 629.6962 | E-mail »