Calgary company harnesses solar power for southeast retail centre

A Calgary development company has flipped the switch on what will eventually be the biggest solar panel array in Alberta.

Brookfield Residential has installed 252 panels on some of the rooftops in its Seton retail centre.

“We have buildings that have large flat roofs and for the most part sit doing nothing. Now we’re putting those roofs to use,” says Garrick Fryklind, construction manager for the Seton shopping district.

A second phase of installation will nearly triple the number of panels and their energy output.

The system provides enough power to light adjacent parking lots and some ornamental lighting. It employs a bi-directional meter, where solar power fed into the grid offsets the cost of Brookfield’s power usage at night.

Brookfield Residential had its system built privately, but Enmax says its commercial customers are showing significant interest in leasing solar panels for micro-generation. It’s working with 20 Alberta businesses to produce enough solar energy to power 80 homes.

Micro-generating solar energy offers companies a long term shield against volatility in power prices.

“We know the production from our systems, we can predict that very well, and we can basically set them up so they know how much that portion of electricity will cost them for years in the future, 15-20 years in the future,” says John Rilett with ENMAX.

The price of solar panel technology has dropped significantly over the past five years. Even so, Brookfield is spending roughly 30% of their site electrical budget to purchase and install solar panels.

“If we don’t utilize and understand this technology now, we won’t be efficient and adept at in the future because one day it will make economic sense,” Fryklind says.

It’s expected the price of installation will come down even more over time, while grid power prices rise, making solar power generation by businesses even more cost-effective.

For now the Brookfield solar project is believed to be the third largest in Alberta, after a private home in Edmonton and a Department of National Defence project in Northern Alberta. But it’s expected to rise to first once the second phase is complete, with over 700 panels.

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