Sun is shining on new solar harnessing developments in Kamloops

Sustainable industry moving to develop more solar harnessing instruments in Kamloops and across B.C.

Solar technologies are increasingly becoming a part of both TRU and the wider community. (Justin Moore/The Omega)

The conversation on sustainable energy never ceases on a campus riding the wake of its platinum rating in its sustainability efforts. The Kamloops Chapter of the BC Sustainable Energy Association held its annual general meeting and hosted a talk at TRU by Rob Baxter last Wednesday.

Baxter is a solar energy enthusiast, co-founding Vancouver’s Renewable Energy Co-Op as well as founder and CEO of Solshare Energy.

Baxter took some time to speak about his projects in community-owned energy and the projects he’s been involved with through Solshare, as well as giving some background to the solar-climate in BC compared to other solar popular countries such Denmark and Germany.

Through his findings, Baxter found that British Columbian communities such as Pemberton, Penticton and even Kamloops saw on average more sunlight in a year than the countries that are well known for their small sustainable solar farms.

Baxter went on to discuss examples of solar farms currently existing in B.C., like in Nelson, where energy utilities have built a solar garden that their clients can buy into and receive a cut on their hydro bill, a process known as virtual net metering.

The mention of creating a more solar community in Kamloops brought up by Baxter, was no surprise to Michael Mehta, who is a professor of geography and environmental studies at TRU, as well as the founder of the Sweet Spot Solar company here in Kamloops.

Mehta and his company have been setting up solar capturing technologies in Kamloops and B.C. since 2013, working closely with projects like the recently installed solar compass in front of the Arts and Education building on campus.

“My concern is that he’s found a vehicle to sell the solar equipment and services and now he’s coming to Kamloops where we already have two established solar companies, including mine,” Mehta stated.

After projects like TRU’s solar compass and the largest dual-axis tracking system in Black Pines outside of Kamloops, an array large enough to capture sunlight even in heavy fire smoke, it’s safe to say Mehta has made a lasting statement on sustainable solar energy in the city.

Mehta’s next project, while still in the pre-proposal process, would be another dual-axis solar tracking flower that would be constructed on campus grounds, following the sun at all moments of the day and year, producing about 40 per cent more power than a fixed solar array.

Being a smaller array, the proposed “smart flower” would only generate enough power to the grid to power a standard computer lab of 40 or so computers. Mehta mentioned that while this project is functional, it would be more about the statement the construct would make.

The smart flower would be another visual statement representing TRU’s lead in sustainable developments, not to mention a value-added system that self-cleans, collects real-time data, adapts to avoid damage in heavy Kamloops winds and folds up within itself during nighttime hours for protection.

 With all the recent solar and renewable developments taking place, it shows that sunny Kamloops is stepping towards sustainable alternatives for power.