Smoke sucks life out of Okanagan College’s solar power

A review of data from an online monitoring website shows a dramatic reduction in power output between Saturday and the last three days.

  • Aug. 27, 2015 1:00 p.m.

Smoky skies caused by fires south of the border are affecting much more than visibility, breathing and our appreciation of the region’s scenery: one of the impacts many people may not think about is on solar power arrays.

An example is Okanagan College’s photovoltaic solar array at its Kelowna campus.

A review of data from an online monitoring website (created by SkyFireEnergy, which installed the array for Okanagan College), shows a dramatic reduction in power output between Saturday, Aug. 22 – the last relatively clear day – and the last three days.

On Saturday, Aug. 22 the solar array on the top of the canopy over the outdoor heavy equipment yard at the Kelowna campus produced 1,103 kilowatt-hours of energy. On Sunday – when the smoke from fires south of the border moved in and occluded the skies – the array produced just 462 kilowatt-hours, a reduction of more than 58 per cent. When the smoke lightened a bit Monday, the array was able to produce 715 kilowatt-hours. Tuesday’s skies blotted the sun as well – the array was able to produce 692 kilowatt-hours, a reduction of 37 per cent from Saturday’s output.

The array on top of the canopy includes 793 solar photovoltaic module panels. The outdoor shop covered by the canopy was built as part of the Trades Training Complex renovation and expansion project currently underway along KLO Road.

The 194 kW electrical solar photovoltaic array system is among the largest in the province, only slightly smaller than the 258 kW system built on top of the LEED Platinum certified Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence at the College’s Penticton campus.

Since being fully commissioned in June, the photovoltaic array on the Kelowna campus has saved about 72 megawatt hours of energy. That’s equal to the amount of energy required to run about 604 computers for a year, or the equivalent of about one-quarter of the energy required to operate the College’s 142-bed Skaha Residence annually.

The array is part of the College’s larger sustainability plan that includes seeking LEED certification for its buildings and striving for the esteemed Living Building Challenge standards. Achieving energy net zero will require the College to produce as much energy as is consumed; the College is targeting to reduce its net carbon emissions by 80 tons per year, and is already well underway. From 2007 to 2013 the College successfully reduced its energy consumption per square metre by 32.2 per cent.



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