Kristina Groves, a four-time Olympic speed skating medallist, is a recent graduate of the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business MSc in Sustainable Energy Development.
The social innovation plans by a group of solar experts and developers to build and operate solar farms in the province caught her attention.
The Alberta Solar Co-op aims to transform the way energy is owned and generated in Alberta for Albertans. It’s giving ownership to people, and could serve as an investment opportunity. There are other energy coops models in Canada; just not in Alberta. Yet.
The Co-op is currently crowdfunding, because as the first solar co-op in Alberta, they will face the highest start-up costs as they are creating the working model for future community owned solar farms in our province.
“For the first time I feel encouraged that it could happen here,” Kristina says. “ I feel like the winds of change have flown past Alberta, and now it’s slowly turning around.”
“I’m fully aware of the importance of oil & gas to this province, and how necessary the commodity is, but Alberta has more sunshine than many other countries that have made a larger investment in solar power,” she said
Kristina explains that her involvement with the project grew incrementally, but she is now recognized as a founding member of the co-operative. Typically humble, she avers “I’m not sure if my capacity is up to the challenge, but I am working with a lot of great people with so much experience working in solar power.”
The Alberta Solar Co-op team includes a diversity of people with background and skill sets that have coalesced with expertise in projects management, solar knowledge and co-op models.
“Ultimately what they all have in common is a bit of spunk. You need people who have foresight and depth, because it is a huge endeavor to plan and build a solar farm,” Kristina recognizes.
If the Solar co-op has to look to other non-traditional models of energy producers in Alberta, they have to look no further than wind energy producers. “Wind has done well in Alberta. There’s a lot of wind in Alberta, but there is even more sun,” Kristina says.
She adds that solar power needs to achieve the same platform and voice as wind power has in the province: “We need to say that this change is coming.” She admits that they need to generate more interest and understanding of what cooperatives are about.
Ultimately it will be the individual investors who decide. So far, those who have bought in are one who want change. This has been very encouraging because they include the farmer who reached out to the group, to offer prime land for what may now be the site of the Alberta Solar Co-op’s first farm.
The Alberta Solar Co-op will take part in the 2016 ACE Institute Proceedings taking place in Calgary from May 31 to June 3 2016. They will be at the reception at 6 p.m. on June 1 (People, Power, Planet: Showcasing Community-Owned Renewable Energy in Canada) and they will be presenting on June 3 at 12:15pm (Community-Owned Renewable Energy in Canada).