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BCHS expands solar system

Through a collaborative effort coming out of the 2014 Alberta Winter Games, Banff Community High School has significantly expanded its solar power capabilities.

Through a collaborative effort coming out of the 2014 Alberta Winter Games, Banff Community High School has significantly expanded its solar power capabilities.

An additional 10 kilowatts in photovoltaic power cells greatly increases the two kW system already in place thanks to the work of the high school’s Green Team.

Green Team members Jessica Orchin and Danielle Lapierre said of the many amazing projects the group has been involved with in its three-year history, this may be the biggest so far.

“This means much of the energy our school uses on a daily basis will be drawn from the solar panels instead of from the grid,” Lapierre said.

Speaking to members of the community and high school students last week to celebrate the solar power installation, Orchin went further to encourage everyone to make small changes in their life, as “it is the little steps that count because they add up to a better planet for everyone.

“As much as relying on a sustainable source of energy is an amazing step for overall sustainability, that is not enough, there are always extra steps that can be taken. These can be as simple as getting into the habit of turning off lights when leaving a room, to composting organics and bringing your own bag to the grocery store.”

The additional solar capabilities came about through the work of the 2014 Alberta Winter Games sustainability committee. Games spokesperson Joey O’Brien explained originally the committee was looking at finding a wind power project as one of its goals to leave behind as a legacy of the event.

While wind power didn’t work, Bullfrog Power came on board along with the Banff Community Foundation and the Town of Banff to make the project a reality.

Bullfrog spokesperson Sean Magee explained the $20,000 the company provided for the solar cells is one of 25 projects across the country it has invested in.

“Essentially, what we are doing is supporting community-based renewable energy projects across the country using our finances at critical points in the life of the project, but also helping communicate the projects and really raise their profiles across the country,” Magee said.

He added the company is able to support projects like the BCHS solar power installation because 11,000 people in the country choose to purchase clean green energy. Magee said the Banff project sets an example for the rest of the country.

“You have helped to set an example for the rest of Canada to say ‘yes renewables are absolutely possible’ – we want to make this choice,” he said.

Canadian Rockies Public Schools Superintendent Chris MacPhee said the solar project goes right to the heart of the district’s motto of inspiring hearts and minds. He noted teacher Maya Capel and the Green Team at the high school have worked hard to take ideas like sustainability and turn them into reality.

“It has been absolutely wonderful what they have been able to accomplish on this project and others in the past,” he said.

Capel and BCHS principal Steve Greene both noted how the community has collaborated with students at the school to see many of the Green Team projects become a reality.

“The Green Team led by Maya Capel has done a lot over the last decade to increase awareness about being part of the environment, reducing our footprint and doing things that just make sense,” Greene said.

Capel noted the Green Team originally looked at putting a wind turbine at the school, but after looking into the idea found a solar installation would work better.

“It only takes one to plant a seed, but it takes a whole community to make something grow and never is that more true than with this project,” she said. “The support of our school community, the maintenance staff in helping to make this happen and our school board trustees has been phenomenal.

“Not only will we be providing the now 12 kW solar array on the roof, but we will be adding another water filling station on the second floor… we will also be receiving a new recycling station as a result of the legacy and putting up a weather station to monitor the wind, so we are not totally giving up on that wind idea from way back.”

The solar array includes a monitor in the school that displays how much energy is being generated and used.

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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