Hudson’s Hope: Another “off-the-grid” first for B.C.

The small community of Hudson's Hope, B.C., has embraced the power of solar energy in a big way.

by Elizabeth James
Aerial view of the solar arrays on the curling rink and municipal offices in Hudson's Hope, B.C.

Hudson's Hope is the first municipality in British Columbia to power its municipal buildings with solar energy. — Photo courtesy PEC

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” —Cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901-1978)

If the citizens of Hudson’s Hope, B.C., had set out to carry Margaret Mead’s torch far into the future of the 21st century, they could not have chosen a better route than to power their municipal buildings with solar energy.

Aided by support from the Union of BC Municipalities and the Peace Energy Cooperative (PEC), the town sought a federal grant to assist with project costs.

Hudson's Hope Mayor, Gwen Johansson,  discussing solar.

Hudson's Hope Mayor, Gwen Johansson, discussing solar. — Photo courtesy PEC

“My council colleagues and I were excited to have our application approved; the $1.35-million grant from the federal Strategic Priorities and Gas Tax programs has helped to defray some of the cost of acquiring and installing the solar arrays,” said Hudson’s Hope Mayor Gwen Johansson.

Progress on the project

The grant is encouraging because, if construction proceeds as well as it has to date, the Dawson Creek-based partnering between PEC and Ron Moch’s Moch Electric Ltd. will have the final arrays at the community’s swimming pool and another small public building completed by early summer. That would make Johansson’s community the first in B.C. to power its municipal buildings with solar energy. This 500-kilowatt solar project might be tough enough for any municipality to contemplate. But when you consider Hudson’s Hope has a population of less than 1,200 spread over 830 square kilometres in the Peace River Regional District, theirs is a mighty accomplishment that can serve as a beacon for other B.C. communities to follow.

Quick to give credit where due, Johansson explained the estimated savings of $70,000 per year in energy costs will be further enabled by the municipality’s participation in BC Hydro’s net-metering program.

“All our solar installations are now certified and connected to the main grid,” she said. “And if BC Hydro were to raise the cap on the amount of solar power allowed on each metre, that would further increase the savings to be had.”

Hiring locally

One spinoff from the initiative was the hiring of local high school students to assist with the project. “We were really happy with the idea and hired seven students, all friends—six boys, one girl—and their ages were roughly 14 to around 19,” Moch said. 

The whole student team starting on another roof.

The whole student team starting on another roof. — Alexander McDonald photo

Contacted for his impressions of the summer project, one student, Sean Rice, said it was a great experience. “We moved equipment, took some of it up onto the roofs of buildings and learned a lot about solar energy and about how to work safely on the job site,” he said.

For her part, Johansson said she would be happy to speak to councils and residents of the Lower Mainland about her project, especially on the North Shore. “No charge as long as the dates can be worked so I can stay over with my family,” she said. 

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