Courtenay not paying a penny for first municipal solar outdoor pool in B.C.

The Courtenay and District Memorial Outdoor Pool is set to become the first municipal solar outdoor pool in B.C.

And the City of Courtenay doesn't have to pay a penny for it.

Thanks to about $30,000 in funding from FortisBC — formerly Terasen Gas — the city is retrofitting the pool with a solar heating system that includes 16 solar panels and a high-efficiency thermal pool cover to keep the water warm.

Funding for the project comes from FortisBC's Energy Efficiency and Conservation Program.

"We are pleased to work with customers like the City of Courtenay who demonstrate leadership in adopting energy-efficient technologies," Doug Stout, FortisBC's vice-president of energy solutions and external relations, said in a news release. "Retrofitting the pool with energy-efficient solar technology will provide benefits for the residents of Courtenay for years to come while helping to reduce the pool's natural gas consumption by approximately 50 per cent per year."

FortisBC is to covering 100 per cent of the incremental costs of the solar thermal pool system and the pool cover, up to $29,572 payable to the city, according to a staff report. FortisBC will also contribute $5,000 toward monitoring and verification of the success of the project.

The retrofit will mean less reliance on the existing boiler system, and it will result in the need for less chlorine, as the pool cover will reduce evaporation, according to the release.

"We feel pretty fortunate because we understand this will be the first municipal solar outdoor pool in B.C.," said Courtenay Mayor Greg Phelps. "Once we demonstrate the return on investment, we think this may become a model for other projects in the rest of the province."

The retrofit design was based on a feasibility study conducted by an independent engineering firm. Their solution, a solar thermal loop combined with a thermal pool cover, demonstrated a significant reduction in natural gas consumption, while greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will be reduced by an estimated 50 tonnes per year, according to the release.

The city is expected to save an estimated $15,000 in natural gas consumption and $1,300 in carbon offsets per year.

"We've heard very clearly that when we get into energy savings and these types of projects, we don't want to spend a lot of unnecessary money," Randy Wiwchar, the city's director of community services, told council during Monday's committee of the whole meeting. "This project is really a good example of where we've got a partnership where FortisBC has come to the table, and at the end of the day, our energy costs are going to be drastically reduced at no cost to the city."

Wiwchar acknowledged Allan Gornall, the city's climate action analyst, for putting together the application and working with FortisBC to secure the funding.

The project is ready to go, and the solar panels are already there.

"We'll receive provincial recognition for innovative solutions to greenhouse gas reduction, and it also assists in achieving our corporate greenhouse gas reduction targets," said Wiwchar. "Also, we did tackle one of the city's worst facilities in terms of energy. When we looked at our corporate Climate Action Strategy, the outdoor pool was by far one of the worst energy burners and one of the worst facilities for corporate climate action."

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