On the whole, it would be hard to find anything negative about Summerland’s integrated solar power project.
Though Summerland taxpayers are picking up part of the cost, the majority of the $6.9 million price tag is coming from the federal gas tax fund. For the $900,000 plus that is coming out of taxpayer pockets, the community is getting a number of benefits.
First and foremost is the addition of locally-generated power to the Summerland grid, and since this is one of five communities with its own electric utility, that means that much less power purchased from outside sources. In other words, more money stays in the community.
B.C. is lucky in that most of our electricity is generated through hydro rather than coal plants, but there is still a big environmental price tag attached. No source of power has zero carbon footprint, but integrating solar does reduce the overall cost.
It also means jobs. Ongoing jobs overseeing the power generator and its associated storage batteries, but also construction jobs putting it all together. Any way you look at it, there’s a sizeable investment in the local economy coming.
The integrated solar project is only going to generate enough power to cover a small portion of Summerland’s needs. It won’t make the community energy self-sufficient, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
That may be the biggest benefit, that the District of Summerland is looking to the future. It’s too easy for communities to become mired in bureaucracy, red tape and the overwhelming pressure of “that’s the way we’ve always done it,” especially for politicians. District council and staff have not only found an innovative solution to benefit the community, they’ve managed to find the funds to implement it.
With this project, Summerland is going to be a community others look to, rather than following the pack.