Living in a province whose economy is largely based on oil and gas and the production of energy, it should come as no surprise that according to the Government of Alberta, about 85% of the power in the province is generated through the burning of coal or natural gas.
These methods of power generation have been proven to have negative effects on human health, as well as contribute to air, water and thermal pollution.
With recent increased interest in renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, the City of Red Deer hopes to offset the usage of natural gas and coal energy to produce a more sustainable energy plan for future generations.
The City looked to address this issue when they created their Environmental Master Plan in 2011, in which they looked at how they could help create more opportunities for renewable energy as well to reduce consumption of energy derived from coal and natural gases.
The City stated they hope to reduce their usage and included hopes to purchase 25% of the City’s corporate power from green power sources by 2015.
Electric Light and Power Manager for the City, Jim Jorgensen, along with Nancy Hackett, environmental initiatives supervisor for the City, explained this goal is well on its way to being met.
“We are expected to reach our targets by generating energy through our own renewable sources, as well as by purchasing green energy credits,” said Hackett, who along with her team published in the Environmental Master Plan’s annual report to the community how the City increased its percentage of energy derived from green sources from 22% to 24% in 2012.
With Jorgensen adding, “There is a system in place where you can purchase these renewable energy certificates that are provided from renewable supplies such as wind farms.”
Hackett’s mention to Red Deer’s own renewable sources refers to a large display of solar panels present at the City’s Civic Yards in the Ogden Industrial Park.
The buildings were built to the LEED platinum (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standard, meaning they showcase exemplary means of green and eco-friendly design, construction, operation and maintenance and are one of 18 sites in Red Deer utilizing solar energy.
Jorgensen explained there are three solar panels present on the roof of Building 900 each with 25 modules and another panel at a different location in the yards with 13 modules. These generate power for the building, as well as return a portion of energy generated back to the Alberta power grid.
Another set of panels along the outer rooftop of Building 300 use the power of the sun to heat water to help reduce costs throughout the building.
While Jorgensen believes the Civic Yards and the other 17 sites are the “Early adopters” in Red Deer’s solar energy scene, he said the practice will be more commonplace in coming years.
“There is more and more interest in renewable energy from people everyday,” said Jorgensen. “I think that once the cost of installation goes down you will see more folks starting to get involved.”
Other green energy initiatives in the City’s past have included the use of methane off-gas from the Wastewater Treatment Plant as an energy source from as early as 1972, and with current upgrades being done to the plant, Hackett said residents can see the efficiency in this method increase in the coming years.
The City also implemented a LED traffic light replacement program in which they replaced all traffic lights with energy efficient bulbs, leading to a 70% reduction in power usage. The City has also begun to implement LED street lights in all new developing areas which will help to reduce power consumption in these areas as well.
“By putting conservation measures in place we don’t have to use as much energy and there is less air pollution because we are requiring less generation of energy at a coal power plant and less greenhouse gases are created when the sun and wind is creating your energy for you,” said Hackett.
The City invites residents to join in their efforts to reduce consumption by making their own homes more environmentally friendly by switching light bulbs to LED, shutting off lights when not needed, turning down hot water heaters, insuring windows are properly sealed, purchasing energy star appliances and putting timers on things such as thermostats, Christmas lights, and block heaters.
“There is what we like to call ‘power vampires’, so things like chargers that are plugged into the wall are still drawing current, even though they aren’t charging anything, or if you leave your television and stereo plugged in even if they are off, they will still draw power,” said Jorgensen. “So the best way to avoid this is to have a power bar which you can shut off at night.”
Jorgensen also invites residents to visit their local branch of the Red Deer Public Library to sign out their Home Energy Audit Kit, which can be signed out using their library card. The kit helps to identify major power users in the home, areas which could be leaking heat from the home, and a number of other useful tips.