A Hakai employee works on the roof of Eric Krejci’s Cumberland home. Photo by Mike Chouinard

Island family expects solar power to pay for itself

Residential systems only part of the business for Cumberland energy company Hakai

Eric Krejci has a reliable job with Island Health, and he also has multiple generations living under one roof at his Cumberland home.

That had him thinking about the future and ways to save energy and reduce his environmental footprint, so he decided to make a major investment in his home.

“I’ve been playing with the idea of solar panels for a while,” he says. “It seemed like a good time to pull the pin.”

There are six people living at the five-bedroom home, including his niece Stasia Krejci and her family upstairs.

“I’m the great uncle,” he says.

He contacted a local company to install solar panels on the roof of the 10-year-old home. While the system is not cheap and should run just over $22,000 after taxes, it will save in the long run, though saving money to install the system was a joint family effort, he adds.

“It just made sense to do this. It’ll pay for itself in 11 years,” Krejci says.

Previously, he’d installed a heat pump to reduce energy consumption.

The new solar power system does not include a battery for storage, but it should produce more power than the house can use.

“It does put power back in the grid, and you get a credit,” he says.

He can apply those credits during the winter months when the house is using more power. While he doesn’t expect it to eliminate his hydro bill altogether, he estimates it could be cut by two-thirds to three-quarters. In the time since it’s been installed, they have already noticed a drop in consumption, and Krejci says everyone should consider solar.

The roof in his backyard faces south, which is convenient to pick up the sun’s rays. The system, with 320W panels, provides 10,500 kW hours. By comparison, the average house in Canada uses just over 11,000 kW a year.

Simply having the system also keeps everyone on their toes when it comes to power use as well as looking for new ways to save.

“Everybody in the house is a little bit more aware now,” Krejci says. “There’s tons of ways to save hydro.”

RELATED STORY: Comox Valley RD hosting solar power open house

The system was installed by Hakai Energy Solutions, a Cumberland company that has been busy working on power projects on the Island and beyond. For Krejci, when it came to switching to solar for his house, the choice was obvious: “We’ve got one of the best solar companies here in Cumberland.”

Hakai, which was incorporated in 2011 and employs 20 people, is one of the largest contractors for BC Hydro’s net metering program.

“The technical term for what we do is renewable energy integration, and that includes primarily solar but also energy storage,” says Hakai owner and co-founder Jason Jackson.

A core part of their business consists of projects based on moving away from diesel fuel for energy, so typical clients include marinas, lodges and many First Nations communities. Of the latter, he says, many across the country have had to rely on diesel for energy production but are switching.

“We work primarily with coastal communities,” he says. “We have remote settings, so we install solar panels and storage to help offset their consumption.”

Other large projects have included buildings for Selkirk College and Thompson Rivers University in the B.C. Interior and the Central Saanich fire department on Vancouver Island.

Work on residential sites, like Krejci’s home, is part of the business too, but these represent smaller-scale projects. For example, a home might take a couple of days while a First Nations community system could take roughly a year, but Hakai is well-positioned to do homes in the Comox Valley.

“It’s something that we do because we’re here, we’re in the community. I keep a lot of inventory right here in the community, so those are easy systems to do,” Jackson says.

All of the work points to a growth in demand in the coming years. There are a couple of large Alberta firms working in B.C., he says, but already his company is the largest B.C.-based solar energy company with headquarters here.

“Across the country, there’s a kind of blooming of renewable energy projects, from residential right up to these community-scale solutions,” he says. “It’s created a lot of opportunity for us. We’ve worked really hard to go along with the times…. There’s a lot of exciting work coming.”



mike.chouinard@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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A Hakai employee works on the roof of Eric Krejci’s Cumberland home. Photo by Mike Chouinard

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