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Metro Vancouver turns to solar power


Glass tubes capture solar energy to heat the water at Metro Vancouver headquarters in Burnaby
Glass tubes capture solar energy to heat the water at Metro Vancouver headquarters in Burnaby

Alexandra Pope, staff writer

August 17, 2011 — Metro Vancouver is doing its part for the environment by using solar power to heat the water at its head office in Burnaby.

The tubes were chosen for their stability
The tubes were chosen for their stability

By tapping the sun's energy, Metro Vancouver is reducing greenhouse gas emissions at its headquarters, explains air quality planner Jason Emmert.

“We're able to preheat the hot water so that we don't have to use as much natural gas for our sinks and throughout the building,” he says.

Instead of conventional flat solar panels, Metro Vancouver installed glass tubes, which capture energy even when it's overcast or raining and are less vulnerable to strong winds.

“We had some concerns because in this area, we get some extreme high winds and a flat panel would have acted as a sail,” says Jules LeClair, a senior policy analyst with the region.

“It probably would have meant a more complicated anchoring system, so we decided we'd go with this system.”

The captured heat is stored in water tanks and added to the building's hot water system as needed. It's primarily used at washroom sinks throughout the building.

The tubes were installed in 2009. Since then, natural gas use at Metro Vancouver has dropped 25 per cent, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 4.5 tonnes.

Solar power is gaining popularity as an alternative to conventional power generation, even among homeowners.

With files from Caaleb Trott in Vancouver

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