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Customers go greener with help of the Net Metering program

Posted by Chelsea Watt

BC Hydro's Net Metering customers are some of the most creative and committed when it comes to developing innovative projects to offset their electrical load. Net metering lets residential and commercial customers connect a small generating unit, like solar panels, to the BC Hydro grid. Customers can then generate their own electricity to meet their needs, and sell any excess energy back to BC Hydro. 200 customers are already taking part in the program.

The program is designed to be as simple as possible for customers to start controlling their energy use, says Alevtina Akbulatova, a specialist with the program. By providing the opportunity for one-on-one discussion, customers can help BC Hydro understand their goals and expectations for self-generation.

Those goals for participating customers vary, but for all of them, net metering offers a chance to be in control and engaged with their electricity use in an exciting way.

And three of our customers are making big strides towards changing their entire energy outlook.

Eco-Sense and sustainable living find a home on Vancouver Island

Living more sustainably was the goal for the Baird family. About eight years ago, Gord and Ann Baird, embarked on a new journey with Gord's two young children, and Ann's parents. Their goal was to build a sustainable home for their new multi-generational family. They wanted to demonstrate that a low carbon home and lifestyle was not only possible, but highly desirable.

"Using solar energy to power our sustainable home and lifestyle fit our values of living within the local limits of what nature provides," said Ann.

Eco-Sense, as they call their home, is an award-winning home featuring solar photovoltaic (PV), solar thermal hot water, energy and water conservation, composting toilets, rainwater harvesting, grey-water re-use, living roof, earthen floors, food gardens and chickens, all integrated into their exceptionally beautiful and affordable example of earthen architecture.

For the Bairds, it was important to fuel their home and lifestyle with renewable sustainable energy from the sun. Going with a grid-tie system meant fewer solar panels and the chance to send their extra electricity to BC Hydro in the summer and then take back electricity in the winter. However, since the Bairds produce more electricity than they consume on an annual basis, they also enjoy additional savings on their electricity bill.

Invermere raises awareness with community greenhouse

Bill Swan has been working in the renewable energy sector for eight years from his base in Invermere. A project leader with Groundswell Network Society, he partnered with the David Thompson Secondary School to realize a common goal: to encourage greater food security in their community while maintaining a low carbon footprint.

A community garden concept was an obvious choice, however, with a school's schedule, leaving the garden untended all summer long when students and staff are away wasn't an option. Instead, they combined their efforts to develop a community greenhouse, with the aim of creating awareness around the environmental and cost issues associated with food production and transportation, and the value of growing food close to its end customer.

The greenhouse itself is a sustainable structure that utilizes a rainwater catchment and water recycling system, and harnesses solar energy through various processes. Today, it's a 2.5 kilowatt (kW) solar photovoltaic project that's had more than 6000 visitors, and it continues to expand. Motivated students and individuals continue to fundraise to increase the size. For his part, Swan believes that this type of investment changes the way that people relate to their own energy consumption and results in improved energy management.

T'Sou-ke First Nation solar projects demonstrate solar options for the community

The T'Sou-ke First Nation on Vancouver Island wanted to use solar energy to power three large structures on reserve. With sponsorship from B.C.'s Innovative Clean Energy Fund and Day4Energy, the 75 kilowatt undertaking became a reality.

"Using solar energy is consistent with First Nations traditions and values. These projects demonstrate that First Nations can take a prominent role in leading the way back to living sustainably," said Chief Gordon Planes about the project.

Ed Knaggs, with Home Energy Solutions (HES) PV, took a unique approach to this initiative that included a three-month training program offered to interested T'sou-ke First Nation members, who then worked alongside the contractor to install solar generation on the three buildings.

Together, these four separate projects demonstrate a variety of systems:

  • the Canoe Shed, a 40kW project, uses a straight grid-tie;
  • the Band Administration office, which is a 22kW ground-mounted photovoltaic with an additional 7 kW on the roof, uses a grid tie with a back-up battery for storing unused solar energy; and,
  • the Fisheries building is a 6 kW solar PV that is a call to grid net metering project.

"This project was more than a typical PV installation because we were welcomed into a society that cares about their future," says Knaggs.

The project has been so successful that the T'sou-ke First Nation offers tours to schools and governments from across Canada, as well as in Europe

About the Net Metering program

Find out more about BC Hydro's Net Metering program, including how to apply.

Chelsea Watt is a writer-editor with bchydro.com.