Maple Ridge council likes the idea of requiring new homes to be built to accommodate future solar hot water panels.

But it wants the provincial government to go one better – and encourage a range of energy-saving strategies in new buildings so owners can be energy self-sufficient – and even sell back their power to the B.C. Hydro grid.

“This is such an easy thing to do. They’re not asking people to install anything,” Coun. Linda King said at Monday’s workshop about building homes solar ready.

“It’s a benefit to citizens. We want to make it possible for our citizens to be green.”

Signing up for the regulation will allow a change to the B.C. Building Code, so that new homes built in Maple Ridge would be built to accommodate future installation of a solar hot water system.

Those systems involve using the sun’s energy to heat liquid circulating in rooftop panels. The heat from that is then transferred to the domestic hot water system, that even on cloudy days can lead to a 60 per cent energy savings.

That will come in handy for homeowners tired of paying constantly rising natural gas rates. Those costs have risen by 12 per cent, every year since 1998, says a staff report.

Building a home to allow interior connections of power and coolant lines would add only about $500 to the final cost and allow residents to install a system at their leisure.

Coun. Al Hogarth, though, wanted Metro Vancouver to get on board.

He said it was “amazing” that a recent letter from Metro Vancouver to Environment Minister Barry Penner basically ignored solar power.

And he recalled attending a conference in Germany on 2000 on solar power. Through government support, that country’s embraced the technology.

He wanted building code changes to be more extensive. “We’re far behind. This is really lacklustre, as far as I’m concerned.”

But King pointed out the government is taking “baby steps.”

Homeowners are going to be “thrilled that they’re in a house that accommodates that.”

Council OK’d two resolutions: one asking that Maple Ridge be included in the solar hot water regulation; and another resolving that it send a letter asking the province to do more to encourage renewable energy use and power production in homes.

The change to the building code will come into effect Aug. 1.

Coun. Craig Speirs supported the change, but pointed out it doesn’t address photo-voltaic cells — which produce electricity rather than just preheating water.

Every new building should have to generate some of its power needs, said Speirs.

Vancouver already requires that new homes be solar ready.

Other Lower Mainland cities are also considering it, although Pitt Meadows is still considering the building code change.

Maple Ridge has installed solar hot water panels on top of the Leisure Centre.

Solar powered

Despite a well-deserved reputation as Rainy Haney, solar power is possible here.

Even on cloudy days, the sun’s energy can warm water and produce power.

A District of Maple Ridge staff report quotes Natural Resource Canada figures that show the district’s yearly potential production of 983 kilowatt hours of power is above that of Berlin (848) and Tokyo (885), where solar power is heavily used.

However, compared to other cities across the country, Maple Ridge is third last on the list for photo voltaic (or solar power cells) power potential.

In sunny Saskatchewan, Regina tops out with a possible yearly production of 1,361 kilowatt hours. Toronto rings in at 1,161 kilowatt-hours, while Vancouver is at 1,009.

Other Canadian cities (yearly photo-voltaic kilowatt-hour potential):

• Calgary – 1,292;

• Winnipeg – 1,277;

• Edmonton – 1,245;

• Ottawa – 1,198;

• Montreal – 1,185;

• Quebec – 1,134;

• Victoria – 1,091;

• Vancouver – 1,009;

• Halifax – 1,074;

• St. John’s – 933.

Major cities worldwide:

• Cairo, Egypt – 1,635;

• Capetown, South Africa – 1,538;

• New Delhi, India – 1,523;

• Los Angeles, Calif. – 1,485;

• Sydney, Aus. – 1,343;

• Rome, Italy – 1,283;

• Rio de Janeiro – 1,253;

• Beijing, China – 1,148;

• Wash. D.C. – 1,133.


Original Story
Phil Melnychuk – Maple Ridge News