Local solar project nets provincial funding

Bradley Roulston stands next to solar panels that now power the Seed Studio office. - Sam Van Schie photo
Bradley Roulston stands next to solar panels that now power the Seed Studio office.
— image credit: Sam Van Schie photo

A Nelson software development company received a $25,000 provincial grant to install 22 solar panels on the roof of its office.

The Seed Studio, located upstairs in the Reo's Videos building, expects to achieve net-zero energy consumption on an annual basis — or even become a net provider of energy — as result of the project.

The solar panels are tied into the energy grid, allowing the company to sell its excess energy into the grid and pull out energy when the panels aren't producing enough.

In addition to the panels on the roof, the company bought power bars for each employee work station that shows exactly how much power is being used at any given time. So they can see the effect of dimming their computer monitor or turning off a desk lamp.

"We have competitions to see who can use the least power," said The Seed's Bradney Roulston, walking through the company's open concept office space where skylights brighten the room for a half dozen employees working at computers.

There's not a single overhead light turned on. People with large flat screen computers monitors have opted to turn them off and work off the smaller screen on their laptop instead.

"There's a lot of little power saving tricks we've picked up on, like that it takes less energy to charge your a laptop and run it off the battery, rather than leaving it plugged in all the time," Roulston said.

Before switching to solar power, The Seed's hydro bills were about $100 per month and would have continued to rise with annual rate increases. As the energy costs grow, Roulston said, so does the benefit of switching to solar power.

"The need to switch to alternative energy is something we would have faced sooner or later, and we figured we might as well do it now, while there's grants available to pay for it," he said.

The total cost of the Seed's solar project was $34,000, and the company paid the balance that wasn't covered by the grant.

It was one of 12 small businesses to qualify for provincial funding through LiveSmart BC in October.

Also on the list was Kootenay Tonewood in Fruitvale. It received nearly $7,000 to install a biomass boiler system that will allow the facility to use the waste wood produced on-site to heat the building and to dry the wood produced in the facility for musical instruments.

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