[Guest Blog] One year status report: Two Twenty solar panels

 
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Well, it's been a year since the installation of the SES Solar Cooperative solar energy project on top of the Two Twenty, and we can't wait to share the good news. The solar panels supplied nearly a third of the building's electricity and saved tonnes of greenhouse gases! (20, actually.)

Here's the story. In June of 2016, a total of 95 solar panels were installed on the roof and front awning of 220 20th St W in a partnership between Shift Development and the SES Solar Co-op -- their inaugural project. We wanted to take action on a green energy project, and the SESSC stepped up to help. Read our blog from last year on the initiative.

The panels have been happily converting those generous Saskatchewan rays into clean energy for the Two Twenty ever since. They are still the second largest solar installation in Saskatoon, and the largest within Saskatoon Light & Power's energy district.

The Two Twenty features 95 solar panels on both the roof and front awning. It was the very first project of the SES Solar Co-op, and remains Saskatoon's second largest solar array.

The Two Twenty features 95 solar panels on both the roof and front awning. It was the very first project of the SES Solar Co-op, and remains Saskatoon's second largest solar array.

By the numbers

At Shift, we're all about results. So we were happy to learn that over their first year, the Two Twenty panels produced 28,388 kWh of clean, renewable energy. This amounted to 29 percent of the total energy consumption for the building. Not bad for the first year!

The panels had a noticeable effect on the amount of energy drawn from the Saskatoon Light & Power grid, as well. The month-by-month analysis of energy consumed by the building shows a striking reduction in grid-sourced electricity following the installation of the solar panels, dropping from a monthly average of 7,854 kWh to 5,833 kWh.

Nearly a third of our electricity was sourced from the sunny Saskatoon sky.

Nearly a third of our electricity was sourced from the sunny Saskatoon sky.

Monthly grid-sourced power usage saw a significant drop (25.7% on average) as a result of the solar panels.

Monthly grid-sourced power usage saw a significant drop (25.7% on average) as a result of the solar panels.

Environmental impact

Environmental sustainability is important to us. It's why we develop only in walkable neighbourhoods, use green building standards, and lead by example with initiatives like this. It's also why, at Element Urban Village, we're planning another solar experiment involving five panels powering a shared electric car. The Element electric car can be used by all Element homeowners and should have a capacity of 12,000 km per year. We're taking big strides toward building car-free independence into Saskatoon's core neighbourhoods. This is just one part of our strategy to reach net zero energy housing in our residential projects by 2020.

Back to the Two Twenty project. According to carbonzero.ca, the amount of clean energy produced by the panels over the past year saved 21.86 tonnes of greenhouse gases (measured as carbon dioxide equivalents) in Saskatchewan. Calculations using more recent SaskPower data indicate a savings of 18.34 tonnes, but Saskatchewan is still one of the dirtiest energy producers in Canada. The same amount of energy produced in hydro-loving BC or Manitoba would save less than a single tonne of CO₂e. The impact that using solar energy can have in Saskatchewan is immense, and the incentives toward adopting green energy infrastructure through policies like a carbon tax could make it all the more possible and lucrative.

So, approximately 20 tonnes of CO₂e was spared from the environment because of our pioneering local solar energy partnership at the Two Twenty. Environmentally savvy readers just collectively fist-pumped; but what about the rest of us lay people? How much is 20 tonnes (20,000 kg) of CO₂e, really?

Visualize it

Physically, a balloon filled with 20 tonnes of CO₂e would measure 200 metres in diameter. That's the distance from the Farmers' Marketto the riverbank, and 2.5 times the height of Saskatoon's tallest building. That scary balloon would dominate the city. Here's its footprint super-imposed over the Two Twenty:

The carbon balloon we saved measures 200 m in diameter and weighs as much as 37 light-duty trucks.

The carbon balloon we saved measures 200 m in diameter and weighs as much as 37 light-duty trucks.

In more realistic terms, 20 tonnes of CO₂e is the equivalent of the average annual pollution produced by 4.5 passenger vehicles. It's approximately the amount produced by the average Canadian household. It's the carbon-based diet of 67 trees. And it was saved without changing day-to-day operations at the Two Twenty whatsoever. In other words, it was easy.

The success of the SESSC Two Twenty project is a proof of concept as much as it is a direct benefit to the community. As solar capture technology becomes more attainable, and as non-renewable energy becomes more costly, more and more Saskatchewan people and businesses will be able to make use of the abundant natural energy resource right above our heads. Saskatoon Shines, after all.

We're looking forward to seeing a lot more solar panels and other green infrastructure fighting the good fight against climate change throughout Riversdale and Saskatoon. In fact, we're going to be one of the ones making it happen. Keep in touch. And here's to many more bright and shiny years of solar energy in our community.

{Thanks to Shift Development for allowing us to share this blog with you all!}

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