Energy Award

Okotoks Turns Up The Heat First Solar-Powered Subdivision In North America Set to Bank On Sun's Energy
The Calgary Sun – March 31, 2005

North America's first solar-powered subdivision is set to be built in Okotoks and revolutionize homebuilding, proponents said yesterday. Government and private industry have teamed up to erect Drake Landing, where 52 Sterling-built homes will be almost totally heated by the sun's rays.

Inspired by similar efforts in Europe, it's hoped Okotoks' continental first will be emulated in new neighbourhoods everywhere, 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 the homes' heating and hot-water needs will be met by solar power, which will be generated by numerous panels and stored underground for winter use. By using 30% 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.

But experts at Drake Landing's unveiling admitted the $220,000 price tag for the subdivision's 1,600 sq.-ft. homes would be considerably more were it not for $5 million in government subsidies fuelling the pilot project. The intricate solar-heating system would add up to $40,000 to the cost of a home, said Doug McClenahan, project manager for natural resources Canada.

"It would pay for itself over the home's lifetime, although with the expected higher price of natural gas, that could be sooner," said McClenahan. Before other developers follow their expensive example, "this project will be monitored for a long time," he added.

Ald. Joe Ceci said he's not aware of any similar subdivisions planned here in Calgary.
"I don't think we're contemplating anything this progressive," he said. "Not only will consumers drive this, but government should drive this as well ... this is an important project."

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