If you travel to Okotoks, Alberta to see The Big Rock or Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump, you may notice another unusual sight in the area. The Drake Landing Solar Community consists of 52 1500 square foot houses and 800 solar panels shining proudly from garage roofs. This is a first for North America, but the Okotoks community is even greener than you think.
The 1.5 MW collected by the community’s solar panels heats a series of pipes carrying glycol to a water heating and storage area. Then the hot water is kept underground to supply the entire community with hot water and heat during the winter. In all, the system looks after all but 10% of the heating and hot water costs of the community.
Community design and the housing itself takes environmental concerns into account as well. The first thing you may notice about the community is the proximity of the houses. Each home in the community sits close to its neighbors. The not only cuts down on the amount of piping to upkeep and repair, but it also helps to eliminate heat loss through the piping.
To conserve the heat produced by the solar panels, the underground storage cells and homes have high-rated insulation. Each home constructed in the city used only local resources and recycled materials. The community practices recycling, conservation, and other green initiatives. The total energy savings is estimated at 110.8 GJ and should eliminate 5.65 tonnes of green house gas emissions per year.
The Drake Landing Solar community isn’t the only green first in Canada. Wind farms have also begun to spread across the prairies. Makes sense when you have the amount of winds we have here. Gull Lake Saskatchewan is home to Saskatchewan’s first wind power project. The $22 million dollar project consists of 17 massive wind turbines on the bench located on the south of the Trans Canada Highway. They generate in excess of 11 megawatts of electricity.
Mcgrath Alberta is home to 20 turbines that produces enough energy to run 13 000 homes with the 30 megawatts they produce. The Chin Chute Wind Power Project in Taber, Alberta supplies the energy for another 14 000 homes with 20 turbines producing 1.5 megawatts each.
While these may not exactly be tourist attraction, they are definitely one of those things you wonder about when you see them from the highway. Canada isn’t the greenest country in the world, but it is great to see the situation improving. Come to think of it, who is the greenest country in the world?
(This post can now be found here: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/alberta/first-solar-heated-community-canada-alberta/)