Wells Gray Education and Research Centre goes Solar! Another Hidden Gem in Clearwater Country
Wells Gray and vicinity are an ecologist's and naturalist's paradise, a major habitat for mountain caribou and part of the migration route for grizzly bears in BC. The area has a rich geological past which includes volcanoes and glaciers as well as a recent history of fires and windstorms which have created a mosaic of habitats supporting diverse ecological communities.
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) owns and operates an educational gem in the area, the Wells Gray Education and Research Centre, just 25 km from Clearwater. One of TRU’s core values is sustainability so adopting SOLAR energy where possible just makes sense !
The recent expansion to the Research Centre is paving the way for greater opportunities for current and future students to study the diverse ecology of Wells Gray Provincial Park year-round. The expansion plan included a 2,345 square foot wheelchair accessible building with meeting, classroom and dining spaces. There is also a kitchen and sleeping quarters for 20 people. The all-electric building was designed anticipating the addition of a solar energy system to offset electricity bills and reduce the carbon footprint.
Amie Schellenberg, Electric and Renewable Energy Instructor at TRU worked with Riverside Energy Systems of Kamloops on the design and installation of the 19.2kW – 48 panel system.
Amie shared her views on the use of Solar Energy for this location and selecting design and installation professionals.
What were the primary goals for choosing solar for this project?
The facility was built with all electric utilities with the intention of using solar energy to offset bills and carbon footprints. Sustainability is a core value at TRU. In May 2018 TRU submitted its third report (first in 2011 gained silver; second in 2015 gained gold) and was delighted to receive a platinum rating with a score of 88.31 — the highest ever achieved by any institution. https://www.tru.ca/sustainability/stars-report.html
What are the anticipated savings on this building?
We expect to save approximately $2500/year in electricity bills from the solar array. A large portion of the solar array charges up the batteries too, so even in a multi-day weather event the facility’s essential loads will have power and keep the place running. That’s hard to put a dollar amount on!
What is unique about the project in terms of the use of solar?
One thing that may not be super unique, but that I love is that I can remotely monitor the facility’s power production through a cell phone app. I have provided the app, username and password to our students so we can all continue to monitor the system operation. Future electrical and renewable energy students at TRU will be able to login wherever they are to check on production and performance.
Why did you choose solar for this building?
Solar energy systems are the most readily deployable energy generation method. In the future, we want to explore small hydro at the facility as well but there are some serious permitting and water rights to navigate before we can consider that.
Why did you choose Riverside Energy Systems?
Riverside and TRU have a long relationship of mutual support and mentorship. One of Riverside’s Founders, Ben Giudici, is an engineer specializing in solar energy design and installation as well being a former TRU faculty member. This means Riverside has the expertise and experience to provide a full-service including system design, permitting, equipment, installation, support and training. They also work with us on-campus providing solar energy instruction and as advisors to our solar curriculum.
What do you appreciate most about Solar Energy?
Scalability, deploy ability, ease of installation, and the short return on investment.
What advice would you give others who are considering Solar?
Research your solar contractor. There are so many ever-changing codes and evolving technologies. You want to work with someone who installs many systems and has the kinks worked out. Riverside Energy systems pricing is also highly competitive due to their high volume purchasing.
How to book the Centre?
The Centre is available for field courses, research, and for bookings by groups wishing to study the environment of Wells Gray Park and its environs. Close to 1,200 user days are logged at the Centre annually. The diverse and pristine habitats nearby are ideal to study botany, forest ecology, and wildlife biology. Much of the use has been by TRU's own faculty and students. The Centre has hosted numerous researchers from TRU and other Universities in the western provinces along with poets, writers and community groups.
To make a Centre booking, email firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about this project contact:
Electrical and Renewable Energy Instructor
Thompson Rivers University
Greg Lambertus, Director
Riverside Energy Systems