Iconic tourist destination partners with SEDV for renewable energy research
Three SEDV students are working with the town of Banff to conduct research on renewable energy sources as the mountain town studies how to transition to 100 per cent renewable energy.
In 2015, the town council began exploring how to achieve 100 per cent renewables by 2050 and in 2016 commissioned a study that identified efficiency improvements, solar energy and geo-exchange heating as key contributing technologies to the 2050 goal. In 2016, the town approached the University of Calgary’s SEDV program and have engaged three students to take on distinctive projects focused on Banff’s energy challenges and work with Banff Environmental Co-ordinator Shannon Ripley.
Colin Popenia is working on an energy efficiency audit of the town’s energy sources (gas, electricity, transportation fuels) within their municipal operations and buildings. In an effort to make the transition to renewables achievable and cost-effective, his study is focusing on policy and project recommendations to enhance energy efficiency. “The town’s staff have been a great help so far on data collection, and everyone is very enthusiastic about making the town’s operations as green as possible,” says Popenia.
Visually and culturally, Banff is one of Canada’s most distinctive towns – but from an energy perspective it is surprisingly conventional. Like the rest of Alberta, Banff’s buildings are heated with natural gas, electricity is drawn from our coal-heavy grid, and vehicles are powered by combustion engines.
Another student, Michael Hay, is examining the potential of solar thermal energy storage to provide heat for the town in tandem with a district heating system. His work involves a careful survey of the solar potential at key sites, and a consideration of what thermal storage technology options might be appropriate for the town.
“Leaving aside transportation fuels, almost 60 per cent of Banff’s energy consumption comes from natural gas burned for space heating. Sooner or later the town will need to find a new heating method if it wants to be fossil fuel independent, and the sun can play a key role,” says Hay.
Both Popenia and Hay attended the 2017 Renewable Cities Global Learning Forum in Vancouver, B.C. to meet and learn from international policy and technology innovators and incorporate these ideas in Banff’s drive towards a renewable future.
The third SEDV student project is Connor Bedard’s audit on the energy and water usage in the town’s hotels and follows up on his internship experience in the Galápagos Islands in fall of 2016. In the Galapagos, his group conducted energy and water audits of hotels to identify areas of improvement for the hotel operators and to advise local government and NGOs on policy. Bedard’s energy and water audits of hotels in the Town of Banff to use as a comparison between the two destinations to identify best practices. Furthermore, using the United Nations Global Sustainable Tourism criteria, he will analyze the government policies in both destinations regarding energy and water efficiency, as well as renewable energy options.
Given its home within Banff National Park, the Town of Banff carries a strong mandate of environmental protection, resource conservation and responsible development. With the assistance of these three SEDV students, they hope to develop creative solutions for the town's energy transformation, while protecting the environmental, social and economic fabric of the community. This approach to renewable energy and sustainable development will help address the global challenges of climate change, air pollution and fossil-fuel dependency, while enhancing Banff’s role as a global sustainability leader.