The Raymond Electrical Net Zero initiative in the Town of Raymond, AB, is the 2020 winner in the energy category of FCM’s Sustainable Communities Awards.

 

 

Town of Raymond, AB, is a growing community with an eye on its sustainability for future generations. With limited opportunities for revenue generation, and facing the uncertainty of fluctuating energy prices, the Town installed a series of solar panels that offset 100% of the Town’s operational electricity use and save nearly 700 tonnes of CO2 per year, meeting environmental and economic sustainability goals for the community.

Innovation and opportunity aligned

To mitigate the uncertainty in electricity costs, the Town took advantage of provincial grants to explore alternative energy options. Inspired by a nearby town with a similar geography, the Town explored the idea of installing solar panels on municipal buildings. The investigation showed seven locations offered sufficient return on investment to proceed. The following year, a change in provincial regulations opened the opportunity for a solar PV system to offset energy from multiple sites. This enabled the Town to improve both the environmental impact and cost savings of the project by installing two more arrays, creating a large enough system to offset all their operational energy use.

Small town shows leadership in climate action

Enlarging the solar PV system to offset 100% of the Town’s operational electrical consumption was a bold investment in the community’s future. In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and supporting environmental objectives, the Town is saving money and protecting itself from rising energy costs. This enables the municipality to redirect funds to other projects that contribute to residents’ quality of life. And as the first municipality in Alberta to have net-zero electricity use in operations, Raymond plays a leadership role in demonstrating that small communities can play an important part in climate action.

Project offsets GHG emissions and air pollutants from energy generation

The Town’s nine solar PV arrays are expected to generate over 1300 MWh of renewable electricity annually, saving nearly 700 tonnes of CO2 each year—a savings of 17,000 tonnes of emissions over the system’s minimum 25-year lifetime. Since Alberta produces 36% of its electricity in coal-fired plants, Raymond’s solar energy system will reduce annual air pollution from particulates associated with coal generation by an estimated 1300 kg per year.

The Town funded the project with a provincial rebate and a 15-year financing arrangement with the solar PV contractor. With anticipated annual savings of $130,000, the project is expected to pay back one year after the financing period ends, and generate even greater savings over the remainder of the system’s lifespan. The success of the Town’s initiative has attracted interest from a number of other municipalities, and the Town offers tours and provides peer advice and support to assist other communities with similar projects.

Town required technical support from solar PV partner

Identifying the best locations to install solar panels proved difficult for the Town, and without in-house solar PV expertise they relied on the project’s solar contractor for assistance. Without this support, researching and compiling the technical, system, energy and financial information for the project would have proven very challenging. The Town took a measured approach and implemented the project in two phases. Although the initial goal was to offset as much electricity use as possible, in hindsight, they could have saved time by setting a goal of net-zero energy consumption from the start and implementing the project in one phase.

FCM’s Sustainable Communities Awards recognize and celebrate sustainability leaders and trailblazers in municipalities of all sizes across Canada.

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