By Richard Bell
Memory Lane Heritage Village is closing in on its fundraising goal to make it the first museum in Nova Scotia, and maybe the first in all of Canada, to get all of its electricity from onsite solar panels.
Why is a heritage society so excited about a solar project? “We’ve always had a Green policy,” explained Executive Director Thea Wilson-Hammond. “Minimizing waste and being mindful of the resources we’re using, being economical wherever possible, is all very much in keeping with the time period of the 1940s. During WWII, Canadians mobilized to do all kinds of things to reduce energy use, exactly the kind of mentality we need to deal with the environmental challenges today.”
They got interested in going solar after a board member attended a Solar City presentation at the nearby Deanery Project two years ago. Solar City is an HRM-sponsored program to encourage people to install solar electricity and solar heating. Basically the program finances the capital cost of the equipment, which users then pay back over time from the savings in their energy cost—a kind of renewable energy equipment mortgage.
They are well on the way to raising the $79,000 for the project, which will include both solar panels and a number of energy reduction changes around the site. The province has provided the first $50,000, and Memory Lane is running an online fundraising campaign as well. The system will generate 33-34,000 kWh/year, roughly equal to estimates of the annual power consumption of Memory Lane once all the energy-saving measures are in place. There will be 62 panels on the roof of an auxiliary building, with direct metering into the Nova Scotia Power grid. When the system is producing a surplus, the excess power goes into the grid, and Memory Lane gets a credit.
“We are aiming to get close to 100% of our electricity from solar,” Wilson-Hammond said. “We used to have both an electric hot water heater and a propane hot water heater, to deal with the hot water demands of our kitchen dish washer. We took all that out, and put in an on-demand industrial propane here. The carbon footprint is much lower, especially since Nova Scotia is burning so much coal to make electricity. We’ve also taken out all the baseboard electric heaters, and put in high-efficiency heat pumps in the store and the cookhouse. And we’ve been insulating everything.”
Wilson-Hammond did point out that their goal would be easier to meet because they are not open to the public in the wintertime. “In the winter, we’re only heading one building and a couple of storage spaces. If we had to heat all our other buildings, we wouldn’t be able to do quite as well.”