Sunshine saving money for food bank

Sunshine saving money for food bank

The Oliver Food Bank is getting with the times by going solar, thanks to some generous donations of solar panels. Here, food bank manager Jim Ouellette (forefront) stands on the roof with solar energy promoter Ian Gibson (in back) and installer Dave Malmberg (right) from Argon Solar. (Photo by Lyonel Doherty)

By Lyonel Doherty

The sun is shining on the Oliver Food Bank in more ways than one.

Last week manager Jim Ouellette celebrated the installation of the 12th solar panel on the building’s roof on Station Street. And three more are coming, thanks to continued donations from community groups, service clubs, Area C director Terry Schafer and installer Argon Solar Electric.

The food bank is now five panels ($3,000) short of completing its goal of 20 panels, Ouellette said.

“Since we added the panels the power we’re producing is fantastic,” he said, noting they are generating 10 kilowatt hours per day.

Ouellette said the money they are saving on their electricity bill is going back to buy groceries.

“Why waste the sun in this country?” he asked. Ian Gibson couldn’t agree more.

The long-time educator is a huge supporter of solar power, and is excited about the potential in Oliver.

His interest was piqued when he saw an article in the Chronicle about Argon Solar installing the first panels on the roof of the food bank. He was then impressed when Gehringer Brothers winery went solar.

Gibson subsequently formed a solar energy committee in the South Okanagan to promote the idea.

The committee’s first proposal was to convince School District 53 to install solar panels on all eight schools in the district.

“The board said no because there was no room in the budget. Trying to find money is hard,” Gibson said.

He is now in discussions with the local Air Cadets regarding solar power at their hangar, and Oliver Osoyoos Search and Rescue (OOSAR) wants the committee to give their group a presentation.

Gibson said if OOSAR can raise the money to buy the panels, it would be totally “self-sufficient” and “off the grid” in terms of energy costs.

He said the same thing about the Oliver Community Centre, noting that 280 panels would make the operation self-sufficient.

Standing on the food bank’s roof, Gibson pointed to several buildings, including the BC Tree Fruits packinghouse that could benefit a great deal from solar power.

“It’s reducing the carbon footprint (in the community). There are alternatives to building dams, and this (solar power) is one of them.”

Dave Malmberg from Argon Solar admitted that a lot of people are still skeptical about solar power.

“But out of all the technology, this is the cleanest and the quietest,” he said.

Malmberg said they have been fairly busy installing panels in Oliver. As a point of interest, he noted there are more solar panels in Cawston than Penticton.

Anyone interested in helping the Oliver Food Bank reach its goal of 20 panels is asked to call Ouellette at 250-498-4555.

For more information about solar power, contact Argon Solar at 250-498-4506.