Workshop to address the benefits of renewable energy

Presenters at an upcoming renewable energy workshop in Eckville are aiming to explain to farmers the benefits

Presenters at an upcoming renewable energy workshop in Eckville are aiming to explain to farmers the benefits of renewable energy-generating tools such as solar panels and wind turbines.

Rob Harlan, executive director of the Solar Energy Society of Alberta, will speak on the benefits of solar panels at the Feb. 12 workshop, while Dr. Tim Weis, Alberta regional director for the Canadian Wind Energy Association, will discuss wind energy.

Harlan wants farmers to see the many benefits of creating their own energy, which he says can minimize the number of bills they receive and reduce their dependence on utilities.

“(Solar panels) are increasingly good viable alternatives for farmers, especially because generally they have quite a lot of space, they have good solar access and they don’t have a lot of trees or buildings shading them,” he said.

The increased availability of solar panels and wind turbines has resulted in a greater potential to create electricity on farmland, he added.

While some farmers he’s spoken with have been supportive of renewable energy projects, many of them simply don’t have enough information to move ahead with installing their own. The February workshop, he hopes, will help them fill in any blanks.

“A lot of them (farmers) don’t have enough real information about it, such as the real costs and where to get equipment,” he said. “The workshop will explain how the systems work, the economics of them, how to work with a contractor or installer and where to get equipment if they choose to do it themselves.”

Harlan describes solar and wind energy generation projects as an investment for farmers — and a good one at that.

“Once you’ve paid for your investment and equipment, there’s no fuel cost,” he said. “If you have a renewable source like wind or solar, once your capital costs have been paid for, it’s really easy to predict costs from the beginning, which makes the overall cost lower as it’s less risky.”

Solar panels are solid, secure and extremely durable, and have the ability to withstand rain, snow and hail. Wind turbines are also manufactured to operate in some of the harshest weather conditions.

There are, of course, also plenty of environmental benefits that accompany renewable energy, which Harlan describes as an advantageous alternative to traditional energy.

“Alberta has a lot of coal, which is relatively cheap to use if you don’t factor in health and environmental costs, but as we’re seeing the health and environment ramifications, it’s actually more expensive,” he said. “It’s been embarked upon because of the economics of it.”

The workshop — hosted jointly by Clearwater County, Lacombe County and Red Deer County — runs from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Eckville Community Centre on Feb. 12. Information on registration fees and other details are available on the Lacombe County website.