EARTHFUTURE by Guy Dauncey
This month, and this month only, SolarBC will contribute $2,000 – twice the current incentive – if you install a solar hot water system by the end of March 2010. So don’t delay, don’t go astray, go solar today with SolarBC.ca. But first let me take you on a journey of the mind.
If it’s daytime, look out the window. See the Sun’s light and feel its heat. Take away that heat and you’d know what “cold” really means. We’d be freeze-dried in seconds, as cold and dead as Pluto.
Now ponder this. Only eight minutes and 20 seconds ago, that same light and heat was on the surface of the Sun, 150 million kilometres away. Just eight minutes ago, that heat was two million degrees Celsius above absolute zero, on the edge of the Sun’s atmosphere. It then travelled through space at the speed of light before arriving on Earth, where it enables all life to exist.
Without this daily miracle, we’d have no thoughts, no love, no tree frogs. No breath, no forests, no music.
As I write this column at dusk on a February evening, the Sun has set, but I can still see its light reflected off a tiny slice of new moon, tucked in among the branches of a fir tree, etched black against the dark blue sky of the oncoming night.
Being alive today, we know that every generation of our ancestors, going right back to the primates and mammals and beyond, has had successful sex – all thanks to the Sun and the mystery of Life.
For millions of years, we simply accepted the Sun’s heat and shivered when it was cold. Some eight hundred thousand years ago, under the stas of an African night, we kept warm by using the solar energy stored in the wood of trees.
Then just yesterday, geologically speaking, we learnt how to use fossilized solar energy in the form of coal, oil and gas. Little did we know that by so doing we would release a cascade of ancient carbon that would trap enough heat to raise the temperature of the Earth’s entire atmosphere, melt glaciers and threaten a global flood of catastrophic proportions.
There is a way, however, to gather the Sun’s heat directly, instead of burning the ancient fossil fuels that will be the death of us if we do not stop.
This way, quite simply, is solar hot water. We can also gather the Sun’s energy as electricity, but let’s leave that for another month.
Solar hot water systems have been around for over 100 years. Here in BC, we can choose between two technologies, using either flat, black plates or evacuated vacuum tubes to collect the Sun’s energy. We can also choose to direct the heat into our homes through a heat exchange fluid, storing the heat in a tank inside our home, or go with a tank on the roof that stores the hot water directly, as 45 million households do in China.
In summer, such a system will generate up to 100 percent of the hot water you need; in winter, it will generate up to 40 percent, depending on the weather. The cost will range between $5,000 and $8,000, depending on your choice of system, averaging around $6,900.
Towards this, there are two incentives to help reduce the price: 1) a SolarBC incentive of $1,000, doubled to $2,000 for the first 200 systems in BC installed by March 31st; and 2) a federal ecoEnergy incentive of $1,200 for larger systems that generate more solar energy, if you complete an energy assessment.
Alternatively, you can use the incentive to create a zero interest loan through TD Canada Trust, allowing you to go ahead with monthly payments of around $110 for five years.
For readers in the Fortis Energy service area (Grand Forks, Kelowna, Penticton, Summerland and Nelson) there’s a further $300 incentive available, and in Vancouver, for the first 50 new houses, there’s a 50 percent incentive (up to $3,500) on a first-come first-served basis.
For all the details, visit www.solarbc.ca, where you can learn everything you’ll need to make a quick decision and take advantage of this one-time offer. If you and computers don’t get on, just call 1-866-650-6527. The Sun’s not going away, but this opportunity will if you don’t act now.
Guy Dauncey is president of the BC Sustainable Energy