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Opinion

5 year study by NAIT shows angle of panel is more significant than snowfall in Northern Alberta

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Study looks at impact of snow and angle of solar panels Old Man Winter takes a lot of flak in Alberta for everything from costly heating bills to frozen car batteries. But when it comes to the impact on solar panels, winter gets an unjustified bad rap.
A five-year study led by NAIT’s Alternative Energy Technology program found that snowfall on photovoltaic solar panels results in about a 3% energy loss. That’s significantly less than the 20% drain that industry had traditionally estimated despite a lack of data.
Tim Matthews, a technologist and one of the leads on the study, says the results will improve modelling used to estimate solar energy production that determines return on investment. Ultimately, that means a win for consumers.
NAIT launched the reference array snow study in 2012 with the City of Edmonton and Solar Energy Society of
Alberta. A system of 12 solar modules was installed atop the Shaw Theatre on Main Campus to not only measure the impact of snow on the system, but also how the tilt of each module affects energy production.
“The rule of thumb throughout industry was to design a system as if it had no snow and then wipe 20% of energy production off the slate – we’re going to lose 20% because we’re in Canada,” says Matthews. “Everybody was terrified of underestimating the impact of snow and latitude [on energy production].”
They found that the angle of the solar panels has a far greater impact on energy production than snowfall. Solar modules were fixed at six different angles – 14, 18, 27, 45, 53 and 90 degrees – which represent roof pitches commonly found on commercial buildings and homes. Six modules were cleared of snow every day, while the remaining six served as a control.
The least efficient was the module set at 90 degrees, like a wall-mount system, which saw a 24% loss in performance. The
module tilted to 53 degrees was most efficient, which confirmed an industry standard that solar systems are optimized when tilted to the equivalent of a city’s latitude.
The ideal angle for maximum production with snow accumulation was 45 degrees.
Matthews cautions that even five years worth of data is a small window when dealing with fluctuating variables such as
weather. But for a homeowner or business who already has historic data on their energy consumption, the tilt and snow impact clear up what had been a cloudy picture in predicting the cost-benefit of solar.
“Having this information raises the level of precision when it comes to engineering, design and production modelling,” says
Matthews. “A company that’s doing solar installation and design can go to a client and say, ‘This is precise. You can take this to the bank.’”
Crunching five years of data The work of crunching through all the data fell to students (and now grads of the class of ’18) Christian Brown and Jackson Belley as the basis of their final course project, or capstone.
That’s no mean feat considering energy performance data was collected from all 12 solar modules every five minutes every
day for five years – enough to fill 6,000 spreadsheet files.
“It was an insane amount of data,” says Brown. “That was not quite half, maybe the first third of the project. Months of work. It was a lot of learning.”
After five years of getting up at all hours to clear snow from the reference array – including Christmas – Matthews is glad
to be rid of that daily chore. For anyone who operates a solar system, he cautions that snow should only be cleared if it’s
safe to do so, such as on a flat commercial roof.
“Should you clean the ones on your [pitched] roof? Heck no,” he says. Nor does he recommend asking a contractor to
remove it. It’s just not worth it for the minimal gain in power efficiency from a snow-free solar system.
“Our recommendation is that it makes no sense. One hour of time from a professional or an apprentice is just not worth
it.”
Data was gradually exported by day, month, season and year, making it more digestible and user-friendly for industry,
government and institutions, but also the schools and not-for-profits, who are interested in the information.
The study’s interim findings are available online, while the students’ final report with datasets will be published on the
Alternative Energy Technology program page this fall. It’s expected to be a hot commodity. (Anyone can request the data now).
“The amount of requests that we get [for the data], it’s obvious people are interested and they want to know how does snow
affect solar modules,” says Belley.
Brown adds it’s a pretty cool feeling to work on a class assignment that has a major real-world impact. “The idea of solar won’t be as much of a gamble any more.”
Plans are also in the works to submit the findings for peer review and publication in a scientific journal.
After reading this report and remembering that both the Province of Alberta and the City of Red Deer are looking into a program that would pay for the program and be billed via your property taxes over 10 years.
The province and the city were very much forward thinking, I would offer and if snow loses only 3 % of power it does make more sense. Right?

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City of Red Deer

Hazlett Lake may be the greatest opportunity lost for the city of Red Deer

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Hazlett Lake

This opinion piece was submitted by Garfield Marks.

In cities around the world, man made lakes have been an economic diversification, city saviour, a tourist destination, and/or heat issue solution. Let us look at examples I found on google.

In 2000, when Jasmin Imamović became mayor of Tuzla, it was a dilapidated, swampy mining settlement short on prospects. Bosnia-Herzegovina’s third-largest city had suffered badly in the Bosnian war, and from recessions, low wages and exodus of people since. Solution was a man made lake.
Tuzla’s economy has also changed massively. The tourism and service industries are now its biggest sectors – a sharp change of direction for a city previously known for its coal plants and smoke-filled skies.
Other cities are also trying to boost their profile by artificially creating “natural” tourist attractions. The UAE’s Palm Jumeirah and The World, some of the world’s largest artificial islands, are an extreme example; a rather more considered effort is Barcelona’s beach at Barceloneta, created as part of the city’s facelift for the 1992 Olympic Games.
The beach, the Catalan capital’s largest, is credited with catapulting Barcelona into the top ranks of European travel destinations: the yearly number of visitors staying in hotels in the city rose from 1.7 million in 1990 to 8.9 million in 2017.
Amsterdam has also tried the fake beach approach, incorporating housing.
The Serpentine (also known as the Serpentine River) is a 40-acre (16 ha) recreational lake in Hyde Park, London, England was a venue for the men’s and women’s triathlon and marathon swimming events in the London 2012 Olympics
In Alberta; Echo Dale, the largest of Medicine Hat’s parks, is located a short distance west of .Medicine Hat… The park has two man-made lakes:
Henderson Lake Park is one of Lethbridge’s premier parks featuring a 24 hectare man made lake, mature trees and groves, gardens, picnic shelters, and recreational properties.

Red Deer has Hazlett Lake in a prime spot by Hwy 2, great for tourism, 100 acres for recreational activities, 2 miles of shoreline for beaches, locate the Aquatic Centre there and you would have a premier tourist destination and residents could have a staycation..
We would not have to spend millions building a man made lake, we have the real thing.

 

SO:

Why did the city after discussing with a few members of the Red Deer Naturalists think that leaving such an opportunity  dormant, was a good economical idea?  Why not make some beaches? Why not develop this tourist attraction possibility? Incorporate the new Aquatic Centre.Why just build housing?
While other cities are investing millions in building artificial lakes, we are building homes to hide our very own natural lake.
A lot of words have been written about our state of affairs in Red Deer. The fall-out from a depressed economy, being in a bust portion of a boom-bust cycle. Talk of diversifying our economy away from our continued reliance on the energy sector.  Words are not actions, and it is worrisome. Is it fear or lack of vision that impedes us from following up on the words?
No matter how we dress it up, Red Deer is stagnant with growth at about 1% over 3 years, after population loss. Blame the economy, the stars or any number of reasons but it could have been different. Lethbridge is now more populated than Red Deer and Lethbridge is growing in this economy. Lethbridge invested and is still investing in areas appealing to young families including recreational facilities. Lethbridge has a history of investing in facilities to encourage growth, education and tourism. They turned a man made slough into Henderson Lake Park and has never looked back.
Red Deer has a greater opportunity in having a real natural lake. Will Red Deer build a park? NO, they will  plan on houses, and apartment buildings that may never get built, unless we go into a boom portion of the boom-bust cycle. This is the simplistic, easiest and safest plan with a low return on investment. It ignores the high-profile location and possibilities of the lake, but it has less risk. A wall of residences will be built to hide the lake from Hwy 2.
Remember, Hazlett Lake is a natural lake that covers a surface area of 0.45 km2 (0.17 mi2), has an average depth of 3 meters (10 feet). Hazlett Lake has a total shore line of 4 kilometers (2 miles).  It is 108.8 acres in size. Located in the north-west sector of Red Deer.

Red Deer has seen mass exodus of population over the years before seeing a very modest growth of about 1% over 3 years. The handling of Hazlett Lake or lack of vision for Hazlett Lake may be an example. How many Red Deer residents drive to Sylvan Lake and pay $10 parking to sit and swim in a lake? We have a lake but we wouldn’t think of building a beach anywhere along the 2 mile coastline. Let Red Deer residents drive to Sylvan Lake and spend their money there.
Lethbridge took a man-made slough and created Henderson Lake Park, a highly regarded tourist attraction. We will put a trail around our lake. Red Deer residents can go to Sylvan Lake to go to a beach.
We have several planned neighbourhoods that are sitting undeveloped or unfilled so this residential development they are proposing for Hazlett Lake, may never get built. What is the draw? We are creating new neighbourhoods, faster than we are growing, why?
Why not look at how we can invite growth to fill the empty lots we have now? Every town and city has lots for sale but how many have a lake, a natural lake with 4 kms. of shoreline?
We have an opportunity here with Hazlett Lake to create something, a destination, an attraction, will we let it slip through our fingers? Apparently it may be too late. Thanks city hall.

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City of Red Deer

Goulet-Jones says City’s new Environmental Master Plan means higher taxes and an assault on energy sector

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This opinion piece was submitted by Calvin Goblet-Jones

City Council Unanimously Rejects reason by approving a severely flawed Environmental Master Plan.

I honestly can not believe every councillor voted in favour of this document, I am severely disappointed in our Council Today.
Make no mistake, this document deserves to be put through the shredder.  There are a few good elements of the $150,000 document such as strengthening our inner city forests however the document is nothing more than a glimpse into a future of higher taxes, bans and a continued assault on our energy sector by a council who says they support energy.
Of course the document is full of buzzwords and flowery language but this document rejects the benefits of our local energy sector.  Instead of looking towards cheap natural gas as an energy source they look to failed renewable energy projects that you and I will pay heavily for.  The Document wants to limit Red Deers energy consumption, wants to limit your personal fuel consumption, and wants to ban ban ban.  The document wants to ban wood fires, wants to heavily regulate vehicles, and wants to shift all the vehicles the city owns to be electric which will cost taxpayers heavily.
Quickly, take a look at Action 20, they don’t mention a ban outright but they mention open air burning, wood burning and vehicles as part of their “action plan” it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to interpret what they mean.

Look at Focus Area 1.2.2.3 where they want to limit consumer energy consumption and how they reject our local cheap, economy supporting fossil fuels.

Shame on Council for Unanimously approving this document.
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july, 2019

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