The sun is a free, limitless, carbon-neutral source of
energy that in just one hour produces enough energy to meet the world’s needs
for a year. Solar power has a bright future, and its popularity will continue
to grow in an increasing number of locations in North America.
POWER AND POTENTIAL
Solar power has become a more affordable option for electricity than some
traditional forms of generation. According to the Solar Energy Industries
Association (SEIA), the cost of solar installation has dropped by more than 70
percent since 2010.
“Solar provides some cost certainty for our clients,” says
Andrew Moles, PCL’s director of Solar. “With solar power, clients get a
locked-in rate of electricity guaranteed for 20 to 30 years. This means that
monthly electricity costs won’t fluctuate—unlike fossil fuel prices, which
change depending on supply and demand.”
The environmental benefits of generating clean energy are
also attractive. The sun doesn’t produce harmful by-products, and it’s a
renewable source of energy, thus reducing clients’ overall carbon footprint.
“For clients looking for sustainable energy solutions, solar truly is a step
forward in making the world a cleaner place to live,” says Moles. “We see this
as a very positive aspect for our clients and the environment.”
The beauty of solar is that it’s scalable and provides a
viable way for many clients to control energy costs, offer amenities to their
patrons and employees, and become independent from grid failure. Clients who
don’t use all the energy from their solar project can, when possible, sell the
excess power back to the grid and gain an additional revenue stream.
Solar in Holstein, Ontario, is built on grazing land where sheep keep the
grass trim and help reduce client maintenance costs. While the rolling hills in
Holstein are perfect for grazing sheep, they aren’t ideal for solar projects,
which are best suited to flat areas. To tackle the terrain, the project team
worked directly with a manufacturer to design custom racks (hardware that holds
the solar panels) that follow the curves of the hill. The racking reduced the
need for ground leveling by more than 200,000 cubic yards, saving money and
time, and reducing environmental impact.
The team used PCL’s off-site manufacturing expertise and
in-house modular construction facility to build the operations and maintenance
buildings for this project. The controlled factory environment enabled the
project team to do more work concurrently, while improving quality and safety, decreasing
waste, reducing costs, and shortening the project schedule.
SUMMERSIDE SOLAR AND
BATTERY ENERGY STORAGE SYSTEM
The goal of the Summerside solar project on Prince Edward Island was to
integrate solar power with other energy sources in the city to reduce
electricity consumption. By installing a solar array to power the city’s
largest community center, the facility now saves more than $100,000 annually.
These communities aren’t connected to a major power grid and instead rely on
diesel for power generation. The project is a model for how remote communities
can incorporate solar technology to lower electricity costs and generate clean
energy for their everyday purposes. “This was a first-in-Canada initiative to
demonstrate what’s possible in remote communities and other localities leading
the way,” says Moles.
When it’s sunny in Summerside, the battery energy storage
system (BESS) stores excess energy from the sun in a battery. BESS components
go hand in hand with successful solar systems. That way, none of the generated
energy goes to waste, and there’s a reliable backup on cloudy days when solar
panels generate less power. In the event of grid failure, the BESS also
provides backup power for facilities that rely in part on power from the grid.
Lake Station in Seattle, Washington, proves that solar power generation is
not limited to large-scale utility projects or sun-rich locations. The new
light rail transit facility has earned LEED® Gold certification for its
sustainable design and construction, a first for the client. The project team
installed a 60-panel, 14-kilowatt solar array on the platform canopy. These
panels provide the station with up to 18,000 kilowatt hours of power per year.
The sustainable station also has energy-conserving escalators that slow when
not in use. The Angle Lake Station is just one example of the innovative ways
solar can be incorporated into any project, even north of the sunbelt.