The first ever community Solar Utopia in Canada
The town of Okotoks, Alberta, Canada has set a world record as being the first solar powered community of North America. 800 solar panels located throughout the community on garage roofs, and they produce 1.5 mega-watts of thermal power during a summer day and supply heat to the district heating system. The homes are average sized, with low energy demands ranging from 1,492 to 1,664 square feet. The homes have been built using locally manufactured materials, and recycled material too has been used in construction. The homes will be certified to Natural Resources Canada’s R-2000 Standard for energy efficiency, and the Built Green™ Alberta program. An array of solar panels on the roofs of their houses and garages, the solar panels absorb the solar energy during the daytime and heat the glycol solution. The glycol solution travels through the collector loop and reaches an underground heat exchanger within the community’s centralized Energy Center. The heat is then transferred from heat exchanger to the water stored in a short-term storage tank. The glycol solution returns to the solar collector system. The Energy Center has short-term thermal storage tanks and long-thermal storage tanks (Borehole Thermal Energy Storage (BTES) system). During the warmer months the heated water is transferred to the underground borehole thermal energy storage (BTES) system via a series of pipes. The water heats up the surrounding earth increasing the temperature to 80 degrees C (176 °F). The water returns to the short-term storage tanks to be heated again. The heat is stored underground insulated with sand, high-density R-40 insulation, a waterproof membrane, clay, and other landscaping materials.
The stored heat is used to provide heat and hot water to the entire community throughout the winter. The whole system meets 90% of the annual heating and hot water needs of the homes. If only more communities take such initiatives we all could be breathing easier everyday.