Energy Award

Solar-Powered Neighbourhood South Of Calgary Set To Bank On Sun's Energy
The Whitehorse Star – April 1, 2005

What's believed to be North America's first solar-powered subdivision is set to be built in southern Alberta. Government and private industry have teamed up to erect Drake Landing in Okotoks, just south of Calgary, where 52 homes will be almost totally heated by the sun's rays.

Inspired by similar efforts in Europe, supporters of the solar-powered suburb hope neighbourhoods everywhere will emulate the project, said Alberta Senator Tommy Banks, chairman of the upper chamber's natural resources committee. ''This is an enormous achievement for Okotoks. It'll set an example, we hope, across the country for many years to come,'' said Banks.

Ninety percent of heating and hot-water needs in Drake Landing will be met by solar power, which will be generated by numerous panels and stored underground for winter use.

By using 30 per cent less energy, it's expected the community will eliminate 260 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year. ''If we're going to respond effectively to climate change, we have to get communities involved,'' said Banks.

A 150-square-metre home (about 1,600 square feet) will cost $220,000. That would be considerably more were it not for $5 million in government subsidies for the pilot project, acknowledged Doug McClenahan of Natural Resources Canada. The intricate solar-heating system would add up to $40,000 to the cost of a home, he said. ''It would pay for itself over the home's lifetime, although with the expected higher price of natural gas, that could be sooner.''

Drake Landing showhomes are expected to open in July with the entire heating system operational by the fall.