Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls, well-known for the natural splendour of its forest, wildlife, and lakes, recently has added to its reputation as a “green” municipality.
Just last spring, the municipality took advantage of a one-time grant from the Rural Infrastructure Investment Initiative program in order to purchase and install a solar panel system on the municipal building.
This one-time initiative complemented other provincial investments that continue to support the economic development, prosperity, and quality of life in municipalities across the province.
“It was the previous council that got the ball rolling,” explain Mayor Bill Thompson.
It has taken four years of hard work on the part of the previous and present one to make this “green” initiative a reality.
The system, purchased from Tompkins Hardware in Emo, consists of 56 solar panels arranged in four rows. The energy produced goes to a special electrical panel in the basement, called a “Grid Tie Solar Inverter.”
From there, the energy is fed directly into the grid system.
The cost of the energy being used by the municipal office then is deducted from the value of the energy being supplied to the grid.
“So far we’re very pleased by the savings,” noted Mayor Thompson.
“We’re very happy with the system,” echoed Wanda Kabel, the chief administrative officer for Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls, although she warned it’s still too early to accurately evaluate the benefits of the system.
“We’re looking forward to doing a better comparison after we’ve gathered data for an entire year,” she remarked.
The payback period, which is the amount of time needed for the system to pay for itself, has been estimated at 15 years, although it may be less if the savings from the solar panels continue to be substantial.
The municipality also has a stand-by generator that kicks in when the grid goes down.
“The solar panel system does not start working again for 108 minutes after the grid comes back,” explained Larry Stahn, who works for Tompkins Hardware and supervised the installation of the system.
This avoids problems that would be created by the grid repeatedly going off and on, as it sometimes does in Northwestern Ontario.
Stahn added there’s a dedicated phone line to Toronto so Ontario Hydro can read the amount of power being created by the new system on a daily basis.
The municipality’s effort to save energy is not unique.
Others across Canada also are going “green,” but the short-term success of the system installed by Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls has attracted the interest of other area municipalities, which are considering installing systems of their own.