Solar panels installed at Public Works Facility

June 30, 2020

Solar power has been integrated into the City’s Public Works Facility with the recent installation of 992 solar panels.

The system, installed in December 2019, will produce enough power to account for 60 per cent of the facility’s total electricity consumption and will save the City approximately $42,523 per year. Its performance is available online for viewing in real-time.

Identified in the City’s Energy Management Plan and Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategy, the solar panels are expected to reduce the City’s annual carbon dioxide emissions by 290 tonnes. This is equivalent to taking 58 vehicles off the road each year.

“Integrating solar power into our municipal infrastructure is an exciting step for the City that is good for local residents as well as the environment,” says Caitlin Van Gaal, Environmental Advisor for the City of Spruce Grove. “This project provides two distinct benefits – it is an annual cost saving mechanism for the City and will lesson our overall carbon footprint.”

In total, the solar power project will cost approximately $706,000 and is being funded through the Alberta Municipal Solar Program, administered by the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre, and a financing agreement with ENMAX Energy.

The system has an expected lifespan of 25 years and will be maintained by ENMAX. This includes the replacement of modules damaged by high winds, rain, hail and/or snow.

The City’s Public Works Facility remains connected to the electrical grid as a reliable source of electricity during periods of reduced or limited sunshine.

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Solar Panel FAQs

Why were solar panels installed at the Public Works Facility?
The Public Works Facility is one of the City’s newest structures and has the largest unobstructed area that can be utilized for solar installation. This area will produce on average 413 MWh of energy annually, which is enough power to account for 60 per cent of the facility’s total electricity consumption per year. The system’s performance is available online for viewing in real-time.

Solar power is expensive. Why is this a good investment for the City of Spruce Grove?
The capital investment for solar power is long with paybacks that are typically between nine and 13 years. Through grant funding and a financing agreement with ENMAX Energy, the City can essentially pay for the system and benefit from the system at the same time. The City’s regular cost for electricity is offset by the solar production, and on occasion, by exporting/selling any excess power to the grid. Without having to invest upfront, the City’s capital and installation costs are offset each month by reduced electricity costs.

How long with the system last?
The system’s official lifespan is 25 years and will be maintained by ENMAX Energy during this period.

Will high winds, rain, hail or snow damage the solar panels?
It’s extremely unlikely that high winds, rain, hail and/or snow will damage the solar panels. However, should a module be damaged due to these weather conditions, ENMAX Energy will replace the module.

Will the facility still be connected to the electrical grid?
Yes. The grid acts as a reliable source of electricity when the sun isn’t shining. However, there may be sunny days when the system generates energy than the facility consumes. Should this occur, the excess solar power will be exported and sold back to the electrical grid.

What happens during a power outage?
For the safety of utility workers, the system’s power equipment will automatically turn off and stop producing power during a power outage to prevent back-feeding to the grid. This will allow utility workers to safely work on power lines.

Why solar power?
Capturing solar energy, which is produced year-round, and converting it to electricity offers a non-greenhouse gas producing form of energy. In Alberta, sunlight is consistent and is available for longer hours than many other areas of the country. Installing solar panels in Spruce Grove allows the City to benefit from this. In the summer months it will produce much more energy due to longer daytime hours. This project was also identified in the City’s Energy Management Plan and Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategy.