The Elders’ Sun Lodge, also known as pîsimokamik, is now the main site of Regina’s biggest solar panel project.
The project was launched on Wednesday.
The roof of the affordable housing complex for Indigenous seniors and elders is covered in 230 large black solar panels, which are set up to help offset some of the energy costs in the building’s common areas.
The building is owned by Silver Sage Holdings, as are the other affordable housing buildings which will comprise the rest of the project. The total panel count for the project is 294.
The company launched the project with an event in the lodge’s main common area. Company president and CEO Maynard Sonntag said he’s really excited to have the work come to fruition.
“The name of the place being pîsimokamik — which means ‘sun lodge’ — it’s just so fitting that we would have solar panels on a sun lodge,” said Sonntag.
The lodge opened in 2015. Sonntag said officials thought about panels at the beginning, but it wasn’t until people had been living there for about a year that the company decided to take a serious look at solar panels.
Sonntag said the main driver of the project was financial — he pointed to the fans in the common area and commented that it eats up a lot of power to keep them going — but he said in the end it’s not the only reason the project worked.
“Our organization and the culture of First Nations people really is about the land and the sun and the water, and so culturally it fits very well for our organization. It’s something we talked about a lot when we thought about putting the project together,” said Sonntag.
The whole project cost upwards of $300,000 but part of that was offset by a $25,000 donation from MiEnergy’s MiCommunity fund. MiEnergy is the company that engineered, designed and installed the whole project.
Nathan Jones, a solar energy adviser with MiEnergy, explained that the project qualified because it involves housing elders and helping out people with low incomes.
“In projects like this, basically instead of spending money on power you’re able to put money back into the organizations and folks that you support. So there’s a whole other community aspect to this project that is quite unique,” said Jones.
The project is expected to offset between 3,000 and 4,000 metric tonnes of carbon over its 30-year lifespan.
The cost of the project is also offset by its qualification under the old net metering program, which included grants for the panels and a 1:1 credit for power fed back into the grid.
Sonntag said that’s one of the reasons the project was so attractive and he admitted that, under the new solar program, the company isn’t looking at doing any more projects like this.
The panels on top of the lodge just need to be inspected and then they’ll be ready to plug into the grid. The other two parts of the project still need to be built.