New solar panels for green energy

Jamie Birtwistle, Real Property Operations (Esquimalt) Energy Manager, stands below to two rows of solar panels on the west wall of the Naden Athletic Centre. Photo by RPOps (Esq)

Jamie Birtwistle, Real Property Operations (Esquimalt) Energy Manager, stands below to two rows of solar panels on the west wall of the Naden Athletic Centre. Photo by RPOps (Esq)

Peter Mallett
Staff Writer

Just below the roofline on the Naden Athletic Centre’s west wall are 22 large solar panels.

They were recently installed by Real Property Operations (Esquimalt) as part of an energy performance contract to help the base reduce its carbon footprint and energy costs.

At the gym, the solar energy will pre-heat the hot water supply for the heating system, showers and the pool.

“Solar power is a renewable energy source with net zero pollutants of CO2,” explained Jamie Birtwistle, RPOps(Esq) Energy Manager. “When we speak about climate-change action plans and we embrace the aspiration to become a carbon neutral defence community, these alternative technologies are quite appealing.”

The energy-reducing projects are part of the Department of National Defence Energy and Environmental Strategy (2020-23). The aim of the strategy, implemented in 2017, is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from DND infrastructure and commercial light-duty vehicle fleets to below 40 percent of the 2005 emissions by 2025, and to net-zero emissions by 2050. 

The solar panels are one step towards reaching those goals, says Birtwistle.

The panels were purchased by Ameresco Canada and employ solar array technology. The technology uses a system of photo voltaic cells that heat propylene glycol fluid within the panels. The solar-heated fluid travels through a system of tubes to preheat water within the building’s heating systems.

While the solar panels won’t eliminate the use of traditional energy sources completely, they can reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the gym annually by 25 metric tonnes, says Birtwistle.

RPOps staff were provided a  training session by Ameresco so they could understand how the system functions and how to maintain it. With regular maintenance the solar panels have a life expectancy of 30 years. 

The gym will receive further enhancements this fiscal year  to reduce an estimated 140  tonnes of greenhouse gases each year. They include the installation of a high-efficiency condensing boiler and smart occupancy sensors and controls that turn down heating, cooling, and lighting systems in the building overnight or when rooms are unoccupied. Low-flow shower heads and a liquid pool cover that retains heat through the use of alcohol-based hydrophobic technology is also expected.

Prior to the commencement of the energy performance contract, RPOps made upgrades to LED lighting.

“From an environmental perspective, adopting and deploying clean technology is an important step in achieving a notable reduction in greenhouse gases at the base,” said Birtwistle. “Over the next three years our staff will be metering and monitoring these installations to see if we are indeed going to see the big greenhouse gas reductions that have been targeted and what savings have been realized.”

He is one of several energy managers who work at bases and military installations across the country to help the Government of Canada meet the Energy and Environmental Strategy targets. Energy managers are technical experts that integrate energy engineering principles into base operations to increase efficiency and sustainability of infrastructure.

He is overseeing a two-year energy performance contract that will bring about 150 energy conservation measures to the base.


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