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Okanagan town takes step towards 'energy independence' with BC's first solar, battery facility

An Okanagan town has taken a step towards “energy independence” after the completion of British Columbia’s first utility-scale solar and battery storage facility.

The Summerland Energy Centre, which cost just under $7 million, was officially opened at the site of the former Municipal Works yard on Thursday.

It features a 412 kW solar array, 1MW of battery storage and 3.56 MWh of power supply.

According to BC Hydro, the average single-family home powered by electricity uses 1,279 kWh a month. The average apartment uses 365 kWh.

The new centre feeds power directly to the grid and can also release stored energy when needed to offset costs.

<who> Photo credit: District of Summerland

Summerland Mayor Doug Holmes said the project “directly benefits everyone in the community.”

He added: “Besides demonstrating leadership in local sustainability and achieving a level of control over our future energy needs, the opportunity for peak shaving means we can start seeing a return on our investment almost immediately, not ten years down the road.”

Peak shaving – also known as load shedding – is an energy management strategy designed to avoid peak demand charges by switching over to alternative power generation equipment (in this case, solar/battery) during peak usage hours.

Summerland is one of only five municipalities in BC to own and operate its own electrical utility, with the District buying wholesale power and reselling it to residents and businesses.

Federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser said the centre will “increase energy security and provide resiliency for critical infrastructure” in Summerland.

Provincial Minister of Municipal Affair Anne Kang, meanwhile, said the town’s continued growth depends on “reliable, sustainable infrastructure.”

She added:” This new facility gives people in Summerland energy independence and security from supply shortages, helping to cut bills, create jobs, enhance the local economy and make the District of Summerland a leader in clean tech.”

The centre’s location on the “toe” of Cartwright Mountain means it will be close to a planned eco-village designed to run on smaller amounts of energy and water.

Most of the funding for the project came from the federal government, while $980,000 came out of the District of Summerland’s capital reserve.

It was built by Wildstone Construction Group and Skyfire Energy, with battery technology provided by a subsidiary of Hydro Quebec.

Members of the public have been invited to tour the centre on Saturday (Nov. 18) between 9 and 10 am.

For more, head here.

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