36 new schools in Canada's Alberta province to be gifted rooftop solar

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Canada’s oil-rich province of Alberta is to install solar panels atop 36 new school projects currently either in the planning or design phase and have not yet gone to tender.

The scheme is part of the Alberta Government’s Climate Leadership Plan, which will make available CAD$9 million to install the solar panels. The idea for new schools to embrace solar PV was first pitched by a student, and follows the government’s desire to take a stronger lead on tackling climate change.

"We have heard directly from students across Alberta and their message is clear – they want us to be leaders on climate change," said Alberta’s minister of education, David Eggen. "A number of school boards had already been asking about the possibility of installing these panels and we are pleased to be able to partner with them to invest in our public infrastructure."

Shannon Phillips, the minister responsible for the Climate Change Office, added that the school solar scheme is one way for future leaders in the province to learn about energy options that reduce long-term cost and carbon emissions.

A committee will be established to assess the impact of the 36 solar arrays, with a view to expanding the program over time to make it mandatory for all new schools to install solar PV. The initiative will also include an education component, including the creation of a student-friendly smartphone app that will allow users to follow how the array is performing and see in realtime the carbon-cutting impact it is having.

"It is important to teach our kids about the realities of climate change," stressed Matthew Armstrong, assistant principal at Calgary’s Sir John A. Macdonald school, which already has 40 solar panels installed. “We expect many of our students, using the knowledge they learn about solar energy and other renewable energy solutions in the classroom, will help lead Alberta as we transition to more sustainable energy."

It is estimated that each array will cost in the region of CAD$250,000 – CAD$750,000 depending on size.

The scheme has earned the approval of the Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA), which said that school roofs are the ideal location for solar. "The energy does not travel far before it meets an energy need, making our electricity system more efficient," said CanSIA CEO and president John Gorman.

In Canada, Ontario leads the way in terms of solar PV penetration, but Alberta has been taking progressive steps in recent months. Earlier in October the province’s government announced that it is exploring ways to have solar power meet 50% of its energy needs.