Among its many operational and programmatic plans Plenty Canada's CampUs renovation prioritizes environmental sustainability. With this objective in mind, the organization has decided to focus heavily on the area of solar energy, adding new elements to its existing solar apparatus and improving the components that have already been installed. These improvements will stand as the most visible example of the organization's commitment to green energy.
Anyone who has visited Plenty Canada’s Lanark office for events or workshops knows that the organization has been committed to renewable energy for many years. For example, in the early 1990s Plenty Canada’s Village Technology Training Centre in Lesotho utilized photovoltaics and a wind generator to supply power to offices, classrooms, a soy dairy, and accommodations. Now, some 30 years later, that commitment is expressed in plans for the CampUs to incorporate three innovative solar electricity approaches. These include MicroFIT, net metering, and off-the-grid technologies.
Ontario's MicroFIT program was created in order to allow 'micro' solar systems (10kw of power or less) to 'sell back' a portion of the power they produce back to their local grid service provided, for a fixed per kilowatt price. Though the MicroFIT program is no longer accepting new applications, Plenty Canada was fortunate enough to enter into a 20-year contract with the program, meaning that the solar power the office currently produces contributes to the green energy output of the entire region.
Net metering is a similar cost-saving and environmentally friendly program. Through Hydro One, Plenty Canada will be able to save money on its electricity bill by sending some of its excess solar energy back into Hydro One's grid. For a non-profit organization every dollar counts, so even this small amount of savings allows Plenty Canada to divert more of its budget towards sustainable projects at home and abroad.
Finally, and very importantly, Plenty Canada's planned solar apparatus will contain an off-the-grid application. This allows Plenty to continue operations in the event of a power outage and operate completely on solar energy for a short period of time.
Plenty's current MicroFIT solar system has served the organization well for many years — and has become almost a signature visual element of the organization's main office. But with the organization’s ongoing capital campaign, the system's capabilities will be taken to exciting new heights.
On a basic level, the system's power output will be radically increased. Plenty Canada hopes to install an additional 36 ground-mounted panels, each producing 435 watts of power on a 10kw converter. For a simple comparison, this installation will save Plenty Canada $3,800 on hydro bills each year. The new solar grid will also be outfitted with a powerful new battery backup, capable of keeping the office, furnace, and Internet running for days. Because Plenty Canada provides Internet to over 20 homes in the region, this means that the entire community will benefit from the solar improvements. As an additional community benefit, the new installations will include at least one charging station for electric cars, as both a convenient tool for the public and an expression of Plenty Canada’s commitment to green energy.
Though these may seem like extremely drastic improvements for a single capital campaign, the organization has taken the position that a rapid transition to green energy is required in order to create a sustainable future for everyone. These additions will continue an important transformation for the organization and continue throughout the coming years. As the rest of the country appropriately begins its shift away from fossil fuels, Plenty Canada will continue to advocate for respect toward the environment and for a society that follows natural law (science).
— Breton Campbell