Energy Award

Shining Example Of Okotoks To Host Large-Scale Solar Community
By Jennifer Lee, Calgary Sun – April 3, 2005

Alberta's famed sunny skies are giving the town of Okotoks a chance to shine as the site of North America's first large-scale seasonal storage solar heating community. 

Tyler Stevenson, project manager for United Communities, says the developer's new master planned community of Drake Landing will use solar energy to heat 52homes built by Sterling Homes. "This is not new technology, but it has never been done in a single-family environment in North America before," says Stevenson of the opportunity to use a renewable, unlimited energy source -- the sun. "We're proud of our involvement. We have an entire generation that has grown up to believe in recycling, reusing and renewable energy, and we're now at the leading edge of that technology."

Solar collectors mounted on the roofs of garages and breezeways will collect solar energy, which will be stored underground and used to heat homes in the winter.

Bill Bobyk, general manager of the Sterling Group of Companies, says more than 90% of the energy used to heat the homes will come from solar energy in a typical year, resulting in long-term cost savings to homeowners. "It's exciting to bring this to market -- there was great co-operation among the key stakeholders," says Bobyk. Participants include the Town of Okotoks, United Communities, ATCO Gas, Natural Resources Canada and Sterling Homes.

"This will draw the attention of the industry and encourage other builders and developers to look at this type of development in the future," says Bobyk. "We're also proud to design these homes with the consumer in mind. "We wanted to make it as simple and appealing as possible for the buyer, giving them the chance to live in and enjoy a home that's like any other home in the area."

Keith Paget, manager of special projects and product development for Sterling, says classical exterior elevations will complement a family-friendly streetscape and greenspace, much like any other successful neighbourhood. Homeowners will set their own thermostats for individual comfort, just like any other home.

The environmental differences, however, will still be staggering. "Your average standard home will produce approximately six tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in a year. Our homes in Drake Landing will save approximately four tonnes per home per year," says Paget. A solar hot water system will also contribute to energy savings.

Drake Landing Solar Community's other eco-friendly measures include R-2000 certification; BuiltGreen Alberta gold level status; low-flow toilets, faucets and showerheads; and community water conservation techniques such as xeriscaping, water meters and rainbarrels.

"We'll be breaking ground on the project shortly, with showhomes to open in July 2005," says Bobyk.