Melanie Tadla with the Justice Institute

Justice Institute takes on green energy

Justice Institute of B.C., Chilliwack, solar panels

Instead of power lines, the Justice Institute of B.C. is heating its water the natural way.

Through sun energy.

The Justice Institute, a training facility for first responders, recently had 14 solar panels installed at the Chilliwack campus to provide hot water for showers, sinks and laundry machines in the student residence.

“We thought it would be a great go-green initiative,” said Richard Epp, JIBC director of facilities.

According to SolarBC, a program of the B.C. Sustainable Energy Association, water is the second largest demand on energy in homes representing about 30 per cent of total energy use – mostly acquired through hydroelectric dams, coal-fired power plants, and underwater electrical cables.

By using solar panels, energy efficiency is increased and greenhouse gases decreased.

The dark-purple, almost black-coloured panels, which are nearly eight-feet tall – almost half a foot taller than basketball star Yau Ming – and three and a half feet wide are located on the south side of the Justice Institute’s student residence and directly face the sun for optimal performance.

The panels act as a magnet for the sun, capturing its light and heat energy  and converting it into a heating agent for domestic water.

The system is a closed-loop system where glycol, a non-toxic antifreeze solution, and distilled water run through the panels over a double-walled heat exchanger and are then stored in solar hot water tanks before being pumped through the domestic water piping system.

Depending on the sun, the solar panels can get as hot as 80 degrees Celsius.

“That’s energy from the sun where we actually have enough heat in our planet to receive this heat for free,” said Roger Huber, CEO of Swiss Solar Tech, the company that installed the panels.

Harnessing solar energy isn’t new. While solar panels were first commercialized in the mid 1950s, people have been using solar power in various forms for over 100 years. Globally, more than 29 million homes use solar power for hot water and heating.

Europe leads the way.

“When you go to Europe, 60 to 70 per cent of any household today has solar panels on the roof,” said Huber.

“Europe has much higher energy costs, about two to three times higher, which does make a difference” when choosing to go solar.

Energy costs in B.C. are still fairly low, but gradually that’s changing. According to the British Columbia Utility Commission, natural gas prices have increased an average of 12 per cent per year since 1998.

“Ten years ago, people didn’t know anything about solar,” said Huber. “But now, more and more people and businesses are going solar … in the last five years, we’ve definitely seen an increase in solar installations.

“It’s free energy.”

At the Justice Institute, the solar panels compliment the boiler system. When it’s overcast and grey out, the boiler system does the work. But when the sun is shining, the solar panels take over, producing enough heat to accommodate up to 150 students showering every day and doing laundry at least twice a week.

“We’re going to get the most use out of those panels in the summer months,” said Epp.

Which is perfect for the Chilliwack campus. The Department of National Defense program is a six-month program, with classes running through the summer months.

“If you have a campus that’s on a semester system, it wouldn’t make sense because you’ve got a lot of sun creating a lot of hot water, but very little usage,” said Epp. “That’s why we thought it would make the most sense to have the panels at our Chilliwack campus – the students are there for six months, they don’t go home in the summer.”

Because the panels are still fairly new, the Justice Institute doesn’t yet have reports on cost savings. Huber estimates approximately $700 to $800 a year – $96,000 in 10 years.

“Once it’s paid off, it’s free heat,” said Huber.

The solar panels cost $70,000 to install. The Justice Institute received $49,000 from the Public Sector Energy Conservation Agreement, $10,400 from Fortis BC, $7,000 from the JIBC Foundation, and $7,000 from the Justice Institute to install the panels..

Solar panels can last anywhere from 20 to 40 years.

kbartel@theprogress.com

twitter.com/schoolscribe33

Just Posted

Chilliwack RCMP find chemicals and cannabis extract in illicit lab

Marijuana may be legal but altering it using chemicals violates the Cannabis Act

Chilliwack RCMP seek suspects in rash of poppy donation box thefts

Incidents at four different locations in Sardis in the days leading up to Remembrance Day

German-born British Columbian warns against a ‘yes’ vote on proportional representation

Agassiz realtor Freddy Marks says PR in his home country shows party elites can never be voted out

Train ride at Minter store not part of this year’s festive fun

Tough decision made to stop seasonal train in its tracks after injury suffered by Brian Minter

Players Guild challenges Chilliwack residents to solve classic Agatha Christie whodunit mystery

The Chilliwack Players Guild is performing Murder on the Nile from Nov. 22 to Dec. 2

Winter weather hits parts of Canada

As some parts of the country brace for cold, parts of B.C. remain warmer than 10 C

Canada’s health system commendable overall but barriers to care remain: UN

The United Nations says Canada’s health care system is “commendable” overall but vulnerable groups still face barriers to quality care.

Unique technology gives children with special needs more independent play

UVic’s CanAssist refined seven prototypes aided by $1.5M government contribution

Kelly Ellard’s boyfriend has statutory release revoked

Darwin Duane Dorozan had several parole infractions that found him ‘unmanageable’

New chair of Metro Vancouver board is Burnaby councillor

The 40-person board is made up of elected officials from 21 cities and one First Nation

Doctor’s note shouldn’t be required to prove you’re sick: poll

70% of Canadians oppose allowing employers to make you get a sick note

Fashion Fridays: 5 coats you need this winter!

Kim XO, lets you know the best online shopping tips during Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Saskatchewan college honours memory of Humboldt Broncos coach

Darcy Haugan wore jersey No. 22 when he was a star player with the Briercrest College Clippers

Liberals to act quickly if Saturday midnight deal deadline breached: source

Oh Friday, Canadian Union of Postal Workers said it would not bring the latest offers to a vote of its members

Most Read