Solar Canada 2018 has the immense pleasure this year of being hosted in Calgary, Alberta, the city at the heart of Canada’s biggest renewable energy market booms. But what makes Calgary such a perfect venue for the country’s largest solar energy conference? To find out, we sat down for a chat with Arsheel Hirji, City of Calgary’s Sustainable Infrastructure Leader, to find out.
Mr. Hirji has a pivotal role in the growth of renewable energy infrastructure in Calgary. His work brings together the right resources and people and connects them with opportunities. He creates confluences of innovative ideas and works to advance sustainability in infrastructure design and operations for The City of Calgary.
As he puts it, “I’m not an engineer, but more the concierge, bringing together the right people at the right time to do their best work. I am able to ask our engineers the tough questions and see the world in a bit of a different way, helping guide many projects from pre-concept to commissioning.”
A Leader in Sustainable Energy
Calgary set itself as a leader in the field of sustainable energy in 2012 when it became the first North American city to commit to powering all its transit infrastructure, public buildings and streets using only non-emitting renewable energy – an ambitious goal amounting to over 400,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) each year.
One of the first steps the City took to achieve this goal was forming a partnership with Calgary’s municipal electric utility, ENMAX, with a target of pursuing a staged approach to securing a supply of non-emitting electricity. Over the following five years, this partnership allowed ENMAX to build and acquire 230 megawatts (MW) of wind power. In addition, distributed solar power projects were developed in the last 24 months that provide over 3 MW of energy to the city. Hirji mentions that plans are in the works to increase this number to at least 5 MW by the end of 2018. As well, they have developed 6 MW of combined heat and power projects attached to some of the city’s largest infrastructure properties, some of which also function as combined trigeneration sites (providing heat, power and cooling).
One of the products of this policy, Hirji points out, is the recent release of data from the City’s resource analysis on finding sites for additional solar power generation. Having run an analysis of all the rooftops and ‘brownfield’ sites in Calgary, they are releasing this data to the public, allowing citizens to evaluate the solar potential of all residential and commercial buildings.
“We’ve taken our knowledge of how to evaluate the solar resource potential of our own buildings and then pushed that out to the public as well to encourage them to take action too!”
A Home of Outstanding Resources, Expertise and Leadership
So what makes Calgary such a powerhouse? It gets nearly 2,400 hours of sunshine per year, making it the sunniest major city in Canada. Hirji says, “We’re well-situated when it comes to the creation of solar electricity. I think I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention Calgary is also a powerhouse of engineering, finance and design expertise. This city is home to a well-educated, innovative and knowledgeable workforce. We have so much expertise around the harvesting and utilization of energy resources we can leverage that knowledge and attract investment into what is the new energy of the West, these renewable resources.”
Hirji emphasizes it not just technology and expertise that have allowed this all to be possible, but also supportive government: “We have a supportive provincial government along with the support of federal government and a local area Council that that has made a commitment to advancing renewable electricity. All three levels of government have been extremely helpful by making investment available for distributed energy projects that benefit us as a municipality. We would like to see more, not just for us, but all the municipalities nationwide, so we can demonstrate how, when you make a small amount of money available, we can do great things with it.”
Big Plans for a Sustainable Future
“I’d love to continue to demonstrate to the world that Calgary is a world energy capital for both renewable and traditional energy sources.”
Calgary has big plans for future renewable energy projects. Beyond growth of additional biomass and solar assets, they are also moving forward on ground source heat projects, the first of which is being built this year as part of Calgary’s Net Zero Energy Efficiency Building. Ground source heat is a relatively untapped renewable energy resource that uses the earth as a means to extract and store heat. “Albertans are probably the best worldwide when it comes down to energy extraction and the city of Calgary is starting to demonstrate how these projects work and what the design standards are to achieve optimal ground source heat exchange.”
Be A Part of Canada’s Renewable Energy Market
If you’re interested in talking to Arsheel Hirji and finding out more about the ways Calgary is capitalizing on its renewable energy potential, you can find him attending Solar Canada 2018. “I’m looking forward to potentially stand side-by-side with our counterparts in the provincial and federal governments to unveil additional joint initiatives on even larger solar projects in Calgary.”
If you want to join Mr. Hirji and learn more about opportunities in Calgary, in Alberta and in Canada, register now for Solar Canada 2018.