Solar Thermal Project Taps Summer Heat for Winter Use

Capturing the sun’s rays in the summer to heat homes in the winter will soon be a reality in a neighborhood in Alberta. The governments of Canada and Alberta, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and a number of Canadian companies have collaborated to build and operate North America’s first large-scale solar-heating system using seasonal storage.

“This system significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions and demonstrates the importance of using clean, renewable energy sources,” said Senator Tommy Banks, who made the project announcement on behalf of the Minister of Natural Resources (NRCan) R. John Efford. “It’s exciting to see a project of this size being realized that will have environmental benefits for the community of Okotoks and will also set an example across North America.” There are 52 homes being built for the Drake Landing Solar Community in Okotoks, and the solar heating system should supply more than 90 percent of the space-heating requirements for the development. Solar panels mounted on garage roofs will collect the sun’s thermal energy, and then the heat will be transferred to underground storage. The storage temperature should increase over the summer months, and during the winter season the thermal energy is retrieved and distributed through a central district heating system to homes in the community. Approximately 80 percent of residential greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Canada come from space and domestic hot-water heating. This project is estimated to reduce GHG emissions for each house by 5 tons per year. That translates into 260 tons per year for the community. The Government of Canada’s Technology Early Action Measures program and NRCan have contributed CAD 2 million (US $1.64 million) to this project. Through the Green Municipal Funds, the FCM has invested $2.9 million, and the Government of Alberta has provided $625,000 in funding through its Innovation Program. “The Government of Alberta takes pride in advancing improvements to existing technologies, as well as seeking innovative approaches to meet the ongoing energy needs of all Albertans,” said the Honourable Victor Doerksen, Alberta Minister of Innovation and Science. “The new Drake Landing subdivision in Okotoks is an example of the type of innovation being supported in our province as we look for ways to better use all of our natural resources.”

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