Located in the high desert hills of the South Central Interior of the province, Ashcroft has plenty of sunshine and high average temperatures from June to September, making it ideally suited to using solar technology. Attractive recreational facilities are important to keeping residents in the area, and the town had a goal of becoming a leader in green initiatives. So in 2010, it became an official solar community by adopting the Solar Ready regulation bylaws through the BC Sustainable Energy Association. With a combined loan and grant from Northern Development Initiative Trust, the community’s outdoor public pool was upgraded to a solar heated facility in time to open for the 2011 May long weekend.
Ashcroft Leads The Way As A Solar Community
With the conversion of its public swimming pool to a solar heated facility, the Village of Ashcroft is not only realizing savings in municipal operating costs, it is taking a leadership role among BC communities and inspiring others to invest in ‘green’ infrastructure.
"Although we had unusually cool temperatures through the summer months and the solar system was not fully operational, we did realize some cost savings last year as a result of the conversion. We’re confident that future savings will enable us to repay our loan over the next five to seven years."Michelle Allen, Chief Administrative Officer, Village of Ashcroft
Positive Economic Impacts in Ashcroft
Michelle Allen, Chief Financial Officer for the Village, points out that in addition to solar hot water panels, the system includes photovoltaic panels which generate electricity as an alternative to purchasing power. At any time, the system can produce a reading as to how much electricity has been produced and how many carbon offsets have been saved. When Michelle was interviewed for this story in February 2012, the environmental benefits to date were 9.4 megawatts of electricity produced – enough to power 328 homes for one day – and 6.87 tons of carbon offsets, the equivalent of 176 trees.
By undertaking this project, the municipality is showing how public services that enhance quality of life in rural areas can be maintained at a lower cost to taxpayers by tapping into one of our most powerful sustainable natural resources.
As word has spread about the project, Ashcroft has received a number of inquiries from other municipalities looking for more information on solar initiatives, and two residential properties in the community have employed solar technology. Plans are underway to upgrade additional facilities in the community as a means of further reducing its carbon footprint. “We’re looking for as many solar projects as possible,” says Michelle. “The sooner Ashcroft can convert to solar energy, the greater the returns will be.”
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