Central Solar Heating Plants with Seasonal Storage for Residential Applications in Canada: A Case Study of the Drake Landing Solar Community
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In Canada, 20% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions result from burning fossil fuels to heat homes, buildings, and water. Solar thermal technologies convert the sun’s energy into emission-free heat. The Drake Landing Solar Community (DLSC) in Okotoks, Alberta uses a Central Solar Heating Plant (CSHP) with Seasonal Storage to achieve an astounding annual reduction of 89 % in fossil fuel consumption and more than 5 tonnes in GHG emissions per home. This thesis examines: (1) the role for solar thermal technologies in Canada; and (2) what social, economical, and environmental factors are critical to the implementation and ultimate success of the DLSC. The former was examined through a literature review and the latter through a qualitative case study. Data was collected from published articles, media reports, conference proceedings, and in-person interviews in Okotoks. International markets have shown strong solar thermal growth, yet Canada lags significantly despite its powerful solar resources and readily available technology. Europe has demonstrated that strong policies with ambitious targets have a critical role in the implementation of solar technologies. A review of recent public opinion polls demonstrates Canadians value the environment and would favour such policy developments. The case study sought to understand the roles and motivations of the municipality, home builder group, and homeowners. The municipality exhibited tremendous leadership when it embarked on a path towards sustainability that included controlled growth based on ecological limitations and investment in solar thermal technology for municipal buildings. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities was instrumental in exposing Okotoks and the home builder group to the CSHP successes in Europe. The flexibility and innovation of the home builder group provided conventionally-styled homes, which were able to seamlessly incorporate the technologies of the DLSC. For the homeowners, critical components of the success of the project included: a means to participate in environmental change, increased community cohesion due to aligned values; and price stability for their heating costs. Additionally, all of the homeowners interviewed stated that they would be willing to pay extra to support the technology, which indicates that future projects may require less subsidization.
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