Some of North America richest gold deposits are located in the area around Virginiatown, most famously the Kerr-Addison mine whose ore was used to produce the first Canadian gold coin. More than ten million ounces of the precious metal were extracted from “the Kerr” alone before the property was demolished in 1996. Today, the many outdoor activities the area offers, from fishing to hiking and skiing, attract tourists from across the continent and locals alike. The town’s recent investment in clean, renewable energy is a natural decision in trying to preserve its pristine environment and to support one of its primary sources of revenue.
For municipalities who are looking into divesting from traditional income sources, solar energy opens up a welcome revenue stream: The 658-panel solar array on the roof of the township’s Community Centre is projected to generate CAN$2.15 Million over the next two decades. “The revenue of the solar system is a welcome boost to our budget,” says Mayor Clermont Lapointe.
Under Ontario’s feed-in-tariff (FiT 2.1), each kilowatt-hour of solar energy the system produces will bring in a fixed price of 53.9 cents for the next twenty years. Once the contract with IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator) is expired, the town can then use the array to generate its own free energy—compliments of the bright Ontario sun.
“Solar systems like this enable communities of all sizes to open up new steady revenue streams” comments Yvan Brousseau who is the Municipal Solar Development Consultant for Solaire McGarry Solar Inc., a company that was established to specifically deal with all aspects of the solar investment.
With its clear skies and cool temperatures, the solar panels in Virginiatown actually function better than in climates where air pollution obscure the skies and very hot temperatures negatively additionally impact the optimal production of solar energy in the panels.
Strathcona Solar Initiatives designed and installed the high-yielding solar array to produce approximately 200,000 kilowatt-hours per year, which equals the amount of electricity 19 homes use per year. At the same time, the amount of clean energy generated by the panels 658 panels will help reduce harmful carbon dioxide emissions by 138 metric tons each year.
The company will also continuously monitor and maintain the system to ensure maximal energy production at all times. Karl Hollett, the CEO of Strathcona Energy and its subsidiary Strathcona Solar, adds that “the Township of McGarry really has been an ideal partner to work with and we are just as happy with the production of the system as the township. Not only does the town’s investment in solar energy create solid, reliable sources of income but is also a more farsighted investment in the sustainability and quality of life of the McGarry community.”
Later this fall three ground mounted solar systems on single axis trackers will be constructed bringing the Township’s installed capacity up to nearly 900 kW.