Alberta oil town plans to go net-zero

By Maura Forrest

September 17, 2015

The small town of Devon, Alberta has unveiled a new solar array on its community centre, part of a plan to become one of the first net-zero communities in Canada.

The 100-kilowatt installation includes 393 solar panels, which will generate as much electricity as the building uses in a year. The system will offset about 73 tonnes of greenhouse-gas emissions, equal to taking 14 cars off the road.

“Transforming Devon’s Community Centre into the first net-zero building in our town… is both symbolic and a sign of things to come,” said Devon Mayor Stephen Lindop in a news release.

The project cost $190,000, according to the Edmonton Journal, including $117,700 from a municipal grant and the rest from a 15-year lease with Enmax, the only Alberta utility to offer leases for solar arrays.

The system was engineered by Great Canadian Solar, and could last for more than 50 years.

Lindop told the Journal that 14 other municipal buildings, including the town office and fire hall, will be studied to determine whether they can support solar panels. He hopes Devon will reach 1,000 kilowatts of solar capacity in the next three to five years.

“These projects make economic sense and leverage Alberta’s expertise in the energy sector,” Lindop said in the release. “This will add diversity to our economy while mitigating climate change.”

It’s an interesting decision for a town with a history so closely tied to Alberta’s oil industry.

Devon was built in the 1940s to house Imperial Oil workers after the Imperial Leduc #1 Well struck oil nearby, marking one of the largest oil discoveries in the world at the time. The town’s economy has always been dependent on the oil and gas sector.

“We’re still trying to stick with our theme of being an energy community, it’s just we’re moving to green instead of oil and gas,” Lindop told the Journal.

Still, becoming a net-zero community may be a lofty goal for Devon. Net-zero housing is still quite rare in Canada.

Natural Resources Canada is currently helping fund five builders to construct 25 net-zero homes in four provinces across the country as part of a $4-million ecoEnergy Innovation Initiative. The purpose of the project is to prove that net-zero homes can be built on a community-level scale. The first of those homes has just been completed this week.



Photo Credit: Gord McKenna