Project founder Doug Hopwood

Generators a lot less noisy now thanks to solar panels on Lasqueti Island

Fundraising for the project that benefits the community and school took about nine years

A new solar panel project nearly a decade in the making was installed this spring at False Bay School on Lasqueti Island, and unveiled by School District 69 in a celebration on the May long weekend.

The solar project, one of the largest of its kind in B.C., according to district officials, boasts a capacity of 42 kilowatts and during the recent spell of sunny spring weather, has virtually silenced the large generator that previously consumed more than 90 litres of diesel per day.

While Lasqueti Island is off the grid and most of the homes on the island have run off of alternative energy for many decades, cutting the operational hours of the large generator that powered the school and several surrounding buildings has posed a challenge.

Fundraising for the project took nine long years and involved many tireless volunteer hours from the project’s main organizer, Doug Hopwood.

“Doug has been a total hero,” said Amber Pikula, one of the parents at the school who has watched the solar project take shape over the years.

“Other people, students, some of the staff, have come and gone from (the project). Doug has been a constant voice, bringing everyone up to speed. He has been so patient in explaining how this project is really important to Lasquetians.

“The community and the School District have hugely benefited from this. Solar power is so obviously the way of the future; it’s something that we were all in strong support of from the start.”

In early 2008, Hopwood hatched the idea of raising money for the project through community donations and a combination of public and private grants. His leadership inspired school staff and students to get involved. On Earth Day 2008, a False Bay School tradition began as the 25 students climbed Mt. Trematon, Lasqueti’s highest peak, to raise money for the project. More than $1,000 was donated by the students’ families and neighbours that year. With this seed money, Hopwood was able to approach various large organizations to contribute the hundreds of thousands of dollars necessary to complete the project, SD69 reported.

VanCity Savings Credit Union generously joined the funding effort, along with the federal government and their provincial counterparts.

In 2011, the school district committed to working with the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Lasqueti Energy Planning Committee to support a proposal under the federal ecoEnergy Innovation Initiative for a B.C. Remote Community Integrated Energy Project at False Bay School. In January 2015 a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the school district, the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Islands Trust to partner on this project.

Finally, over the past winter, the funding target was reached and Hakai Energy Solutions was contracted to do the installation with the support of the SD69 Operations department staff.

“The journey from project conception to completion has been both long and challenging,” said Rollie Koop, SD69 superintendent. “It has only been through the unwavering commitment of the Lasqueti community and renewable energy champions like Doug Hopwood that we find ourselves in a place where we can celebrate completion of this project — which will reduce energy costs, lessen our impact on the environment and provide practical learning opportunities for students at False Bay School and the rest of the district.”

On Saturday, May 21, more than half of the island’s residents showed up for the annual Spring Fling fair at the school and took part in celebrating the new clean energy source. School staff, community members and students expressed their delight with the project.

Boris Boyko, now a Grade 6 student, has climbed the mountain several times with the school group.

“It’s actually pretty fun to dip your toe in the ocean and then climb up Mt. Trematon,” said Boyko. “The view at the top is incredible. But what’s really nice is that now the generator at the school is quiet. The playground is way more fun to be in and maybe the Earth won’t warm up as fast.”

— NEWS Staff/Submitted by SD69

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