Peter Nix’s small solar farm is the wave of the future, he says. (submitted)

Guest column: Solar energy ‘pipelines’ needed, says B.C.’’s Community Solar Network

Instead of controversial fossil fuel pipelines, let’s build community ‘solar pipelines’.

By Peter Nix

Oil and gas pipelines have generated much verbal heat and smoke in B.C. So why not shift our thinking? Instead of controversial fossil fuel pipelines, let’s build community ‘solar pipelines’.

Why the shift? Because climate change events, like forest fires, generate actual heat and smoke that threaten our health and safety; 10,000 citizens were admitted to hospital last year due to smoke-related breathing problems and Prince George’s air quality was among the most polluted in the world.

But our energy utility, BC Hydro, ignores the public need to replace dirty fossil fuels with clean renewable energy. They pretend that hydro power is secure, when rainfall patterns and glacier melting rates are changing; and they pretend that hydro power is clean, when its greenhouse gas emissions are five to seven times higher than solar.

As a Carbon Buster, I built a small solar farm on Vancouver Island which produces energy at less cost than will the Site C dam project, operates with infinitely less environmental damage than the Trans Mountain bitumen pipeline; and emits massively fewer greenhouse gases than natural gas using the sun’s limitless free energy.

Using my ‘solar pipeline’, I send energy to my neighbours and get a reduction on my hydro bill. It’s called net-metering. OK, my pipeline is just a 100 metres of underground wire from the solar panels to my garage and then to the grid, but it transports cheaper energy than any oil pipeline.

In fact, my solar farm is a sound business, making about five to six per cent profit. My house has zero electric or heating bills, I fuel my electric car with its energy, and I get cash for surplus energy at year’s end.

Even the provincial government’s green plan agrees that we need energy that is clean and made in B.C. But these are words, little action is happening. Two-thirds of our energy still comes from dirty fossil fuels that must be replaced by massive amounts of renewable energy.

And worse, BC Hydro now wants to stop me, or anyone else, from selling clean electricity into our public grid. They must be fond of their monopoly. Yet at the same time they spent $54.9 million on polluting energy from outside the province in March — a time when photons from the sun were bouncing like balls off our own roof tops.

BC Hydro is not making good decisions. This public corporation hides a huge hidden debt which you and I must pay, is building an over-budget and geologically risky Site C dam, and cannot stop local power outages when storms or fires wipe out the province-wide electrical grid.

We need solar farms to improve our local economy and reduce dangerous climate change events like smoke from forest fires. They could be owned by citizens, cooperatives, or municipal governments.

As a result, the BC Community Solar Network will be asking our politicians to reject BC Hydro’s attempt to deny affordable and more secure community energy projects.

Help us create public pressure for community solar farms by emailing cowichancarbonbusters@shaw.ca. Just ask to be listed as a supporter; no fees needed.

To get this done, we need people power, political and electrical.

Peter Nix is the founder of the BC Community Solar Network. For more information email cowichancarbonbusters@shaw.ca

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