By Ry Clarke
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs invited speaker Mayor Trevor Lewington, of Stirling, to discuss net zero, and the village’s journey to achieving this goal. With fibre optic broadband internet service connecting more than 90 per cent of households, and a solar arrays on public buildings offsetting municipal power consumption needs, Stirling is now regarded as Canada’s first electrically net zero village for municipal purposes.
“We are electrically net zero for municipal purposes. That means for all of our municipal buildings, like the pool, library, streetlights, or administration buildings, we generate enough solar power through our rooftop and ground mounted arrays to offset all of that electrical use over the course of a whole year.” said Lewington. “All solar; we were one of the first communities in Canada to go net zero.”
With so many benefits to going net zero, Lewington says the driving force behind the goal was saving money for the community. “In 2017 the villages power bill for all the infrastructure was about $32,000 a year, and that was based on six cents per kilowatt. Last year, instead of having a $32,000 bill, we had an $8,000 credit. So that $40,000 difference is money that we are not giving to power companies, but putting back in our pocket to pay for things like our volunteer fire department. For a small community that’s a massive impact.”
Looking at other ways to implement cost saving strategies that also help environmentally, solar pre-heating has been added to the village’s outdoor pool to reduce natural gas consumption needed by the boilers used to heat the water. “Recreation facilities lose money, they are not good from a budget perspective. They are really important to the community. We have been figuring out how (to) change that narrative,” said Lewington. “What we have been looking at is how can we leverage other technologies. There is this thing called “solar pre-heating of water”. You can run the water through panels that are going to be mounted on our roof that will pre-heat the water. […] We replaced a 1970s era boiler that was about 60 per cent efficient with three modular units that are almost 97 per cent efficient.”
On the journey to net zero, Stirling has started its own energy marketing company called, Ridge Utilities. “Our philosophy was, rather than just buying energy, why don’t we also sell it as a community-owned utility. Which is what Enmax and Epcor are, they pay dividends to the city of Edmonton and the city of Calgary. Then we can take our profits and reinvest it back into the communities where our customers live.”
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