Sunny Days at College of the Rockies

College of the Rockies

Cranbrook, BC gets a lot of sunshine. Both Statistics Canada and Environment Canada cite it as one of the sunniest cities in Canada, and College of the Rockies is taking full advantage of all that sunshine.

In April 2015, the College undertook a solar project at its Cranbrook campus’ residence building, installing two types of solar technology on the facility’s roof – photovoltaic and solar thermal – which allows the system to pull in as much heat as possible. The project takes advantage of a renewable energy source for heating the residence building while also providing an educational experience for interested students.

College of the Rockies Facilities Manager Allan Knibbs says, “This project allows us to do three things.  First, we are able to provide our students with opportunities to learn and see first-hand how solar energy works in the construction phase and to be able to see how the different solar technologies are performing via our real-time monitoring system.  Second, it demonstrates the College’s leadership and commitment to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.  And lastly, this project will result in a direct reduction in our natural gas costs.”

Later in 2015, the College also installed photovoltaic panels on the roof of the Cranbrook campus’ Kootenay Centre building which was determined to be the biggest consumer of electricity and had the best physical space for the solar panels.

“As a facility, we want to be leaders in alternative energies and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and hydroelectricity,” adds Knibbs. “There are a few other installs in the province but our area has the biggest potential for solar due to the number of sunny days we experience.”

The Kootenay Centre solar project produces 109,000 kilowatt-hours per year of electricity, enough to operate 14 houses for a year – while reducing the College’s greenhouse gas emissions by 12,000 kilograms of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent). Combined, the solar systems have saved 26 tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.

Looking at alternative energy solutions is not new to College of the Rockies. When their Pinnacle Hall trades building was constructed in 2007 it included a solar wall along one side which helps to draw heat into the building, improving indoor air quality and reducing heating and operating costs.  A south entrance expansion, completed in 2010, achieved certification by the Leadership in Energy in Environmental Design (LEED) certification program, indicating the new construction meets the highest environmental performance criteria in Canada. Construction of a new facility, which will begin in spring 2017, will also consider LEED criteria.

All exterior lighting fixtures at the College (approximately 215) are LED lit as are thirty percent of the interior fixtures, with interior LED lights increasing by about 20% to 30% per year. Future plans for the College include a new recycling plan in conjunction with the College’s Sustainability Committee, the installation of a “green wall” and exploring the feasibility of a composting plan for the main campus.

College of the Rockies’ commitment to going green is not limited to its facilities; it is something they also instill in their students. The College offers a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) – with a focus on sustainability. Students in the BBA program take part in capstone projects, many of which encourage improved sustainable practices both at the College and at businesses throughout the region.

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