Diesel generators that ran for 12 hours a day powered the school located on Lasqueti Island in British Columbia, Canada, from its construction in 1953 until 2016, when a community effort turned a solar dream into reality.
Doug Hopwood’s daughter was attending False Bay School when he first approached the staff with the idea of fundraising for a solar system. He led this effort with two motivations in mind: he wanted the tax-funded school to save money, and he wanted the community to make a positive impact on climate change.
With a population of about 400 people, Lasqueti Island is 56 miles northwest of Vancouver on the Strait of Georgia. It is one of the least developed of the major Gulf Islands, and the only one not currently connected to BC Hydro and Power Authority’s electrical power grid. Transportation in and out of the island is available through passenger-only ferry.
For nine years, students, staff, parents, School District 69 leaders, and other community members came together to raise funds for the solar project. When they finally reached their savings goal, they contracted Hakai Energy Solutions to deliver the project.
After overcoming several challenges including limited site access, inclement weather, shallow bedrock, restricted communication, and the unavailability of local materials, the Hakai Energy team of experts was able to install and commission the dreamed 42.2kW PV system custom-designed for False Bay School.
During the day, five SMA Sunny Boy string inverters power the system and at nighttime, it runs with four SMA Sunny Island battery based inverters. Battery storage has allowed storing excess production and now they use a smaller generator only as a backup.
“We use SMA products because they are the most reliable and versatile inverters on the market. We’ve worked with every major brand of inverter, and our designers and installers prefer SMA products above all. The inverters are robust and deliver what they claim. The technical support is also unmatched by other manufacturers in our experience. So that gives us the best level confidence that we can meet our contractual obligations to our clients, and that helps us build our business,” said Jason Jackson from Hakai Energy Solutions.
The system produces an estimate of 47,000kWh per year. Over the lifetime of the facility, there will be a CO2 emission reduction of more than 800,00kg and savings of more than half a million dollars.
School District 69 Superintendent Rollie Koop commented, “The journey from project conception to completion has been both long and challenging. It has only been through the unwavering commitment of the Lasqueti community and renewable energy champions like Doug Hopwood that we find ourselves in a place where we can celebrate completion of this project which will reduce energy costs, lessen our impact on the environment and provide practical learning opportunities for students at False Bay School and the rest of the district.” In 2018, the British Columbia Achievement Foundation awarded Hopwood with the community achievement award, a recognition that he shares with the Lasqueti Island community.
Visit our gallery and enjoy pictures of this inspiring project, living proof of the great accomplishments achieved when a whole community works together.
Alexandra is a marketing program manager for SMA America. She manages the company’s social media channels, contributes to digital marketing strategies, manages video production efforts and helps develop Spanish-language content.