Salmo's energy — and literary — minded citizens won the FortisBC Earth Hour Challenge on Saturday.

Salmo wins Earth Hour Challenge

If it was pitch black in Salmo for an hour Saturday, it was a sign residents take energy conservation seriously and love their library.

If it was pitch black in Salmo for an hour Saturday night, it was proof residents love their library and take energy conservation seriously.

Salmo won the Earth Hour Challenge with the largest per capita pledges in FortisBC’s service area to turn off non-essential lights, appliances, and electronics from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m.

As a result, the Salmo Public Library will receive $5,000 for an energy upgrade.

“We’re pretty excited,” says acting library director Marianne Hanson. “We’re in the middle of expanding, so it couldn’t have come at a better time. We’ve taken over the space next door, but now we’re in the midst of raising money.”

Hanson say they’ll work with the power company and village to determine exactly how the money will be spent — but there are no shortage of energy-related projects, including new doors, windows, and heating.

She says they worked hard to encourage residents to pledge online, including setting up displays inside the library and in their window, highlighting it on their webpage and Facebook site, and putting up posters.

They also had a strong word-of-mouth campaign and encouraged all library visitors to pledge.

“We had a lot of support from the community,” Hanson says. “It was great to see.”

However, at first she didn’t think Salmo had won. FortisBC provided a graph during the competition that showed Salmo and Kaslo-Crawford Bay neck-in-neck for the lead among 17 communities in the Okanagan and Kootenays.

When the pledge deadline passed Saturday afternoon, Kaslo actually led with 117 per cent participation to Salmo’s 106. (Those pledging to take part in Earth Hour didn’t have to live within the community they supported, but participation was measured relative to each area’s population.)

“There were some questions because Kaslo was a bit ahead of Salmo at the end,” says FortisBC’s Nicole Bogdanovic. “But when we went through [the pledges], there were quite a number of duplicate entries from Kaslo.”

Once those were removed, Salmo topped the challenge with 102 per cent, to Kaslo’s 96.

“Smaller communities have a bit of an advantage,” Bogdanovic says. “They do a good job of engaging people with it. Salmo was really effective in setting up a computer in their local library where people could pledge.”

In all, FortisBC says over 6,000 people pledged to participate, three times as many as last year. Overall electricity consumption dropped 1.7 per cent, or 5.48 megawatts during Earth Hour — the equivalent of switching off 90,000 incandescent light bulbs — which was 1.9 megawatts more than last year.

Consumption is measured against the same time on a comparable Saturday.

Community-by-community breakdowns were not available.

It’s the fourth consecutive year FortisBC has sponsored the challenge.

In 2011, Kaslo and Crawford Bay were runners-up, while Rossland was third.

Last year’s winner, Keremeos, was fourth this time with 22 per cent participation, behind third-place Princeton at 24 per cent.

No other West Kootenay community recorded double-digit pledge numbers.

Nelson, which participated even though it doesn’t get its power directly from FortisBC, registered 1.7 per cent.

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