Buzzing about renewable energy

About 30 people gather with mayor to discuss ways to make Squamish jump ahead

It’s time to see the light.

That was the message that emerged from the mayor’s breakfast held Friday morning, when the topic was renewable energies.

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Mayor Patricia Heintzman told the crowd of about 30 people that it’s time to think about transitioning into the future.

“There’s a lot of good reasons we should think about reimagining our economy in a new world, 10, 20 years down the road, maybe sooner,” she said, inviting everyone to speak.

“The demand for resources far outweighs the supply,” said local resident David Lassman. “Renewable resources are becoming scarcer.”

Chris Pettingill said there’s an opportunity to become a leading community. “Squamish seems to me as a place where we like to go our own path and do things a little differently,” he said. “This is an opportunity for us to jump ahead.”

The group gathered included developers, industry representatives and homeowners, some of whom have made investments for solar energy, geothermal or rainwater collection systems in their own houses.

Heintzman said she looked at installing solar water heating on the roof in the past but it would have taken 25 years for a return on investment. “Now it is seven or eight years,” she said. “The price is just plummeting.”

The mayor had attended a Renewable Cities conference in Vancouver the previous week and said “there was nary a mention of LNG” – liquefied natural gas – at the event.

She learned at the conference that precipitation is expected to decrease in this region in coming years. “We are going to have more sun here.”

Matt Blackman, who has been pushing for Squamish to become a Canadian Solar City, said installing renewable energy systems in your house is a solid investment because it also protects against future rate increases. “There is a huge economic incentive.”

Heintzman, however, noted that when building the Squamish Adventure Centre years ago, one of the first items to be pared from the budget was the geothermal system. Now, she said, “we spend over $40,000 a year to heat and cool that building.”

She suggested banks should become part of the solution by recognizing the savings that will be made for years ahead by installing renewable energy systems.

Developer Michael Hutchison suggested another way the district could make use of renewable energy. “One of the things obvious about Squamish is we have a lot of wood waste,” he said. “Trees are a renewable resource.”

Heintzman agreed that “we have a constant supply of wood waste, the number one source of renewable energy here,” but said there is controversy about incinerators.

On a positive note, she said the district’s new organics collection program is expected to reduce garbage waste by 40 per cent.

The group also discussed the idea of creating a showcase of renewable energy in Squamish. Quest University has a geothermal system and has given public tours in the past. 

The local renewable energy group, which currently has about 12 committee members, will meet June 2 from 4 to 6 p.m at a location still to be determined. For more information, visit the Facebook page: Squamish Alternative Energy Group

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