Red Deer College breaks ground on 4,000 square foot alternative energy lab

Alternative energy initative to save college $1 million a year in power costs

A $10 million investment in alternative energy demonstrates Red Deer College’s eagerness to become a polytechnic university, according to president and CEO Joel Ward.

“It’s about applied learning, it’s about connection with business and industry and it’s about advanced training,” said Ward. “So those new degrees in manufacturing, alternative energy, we need to move there in a big way if we’re going to be successful.”

Ground broke Wednesday on an alternative energy lab that will serve as a learning space. There is also significant investment in solar panels that will have a longterm impact on the college’s bottom line.

While the college is paying $5 million for the initiative, the rest of the funding comes from the federal government’s Post-Secondary Strategic Initiative Fund.

The college expects to break even on its $5 million, coming from its reserves, investment in an alternative energy initiative within the next five years.

Their portion of the $10 million alternative energy lab and initiative, will be paid off in the long run. Power generated by the new solar panels that will be installed at the Gary W. Harris Centre and new residence will save the college an estimated 67 per cent of its power usage.

“It makes huge sense for us,” said Ward. “After the fourth year it has paid for itself and every year after that its $1 million we don’t have to spend on heat and power. We can spend it on new initiatives or programs for students.”

At the centre of the investment is a 4,000 square foot alternative energy lab that is scheduled to be built by April, 2018.

“It really is going to be a hub for Central Alberta for those who are very much interested in bringing new, environmental, technologies to their business,” said Ward. “It provides students with training and skills to be able to install and troubleshoot it.”

On top the lab, there will be different types of solar arrays so students can look and learn to prepare themselves for new green jobs.

“It’s all part of the research and allowing students and industry to go out into the world and install and maintain these systems,” said Jim Brinkhurst, RDC vice president college services.

Construction of the lab started on Wednesday. Clark Builders, of Edmonton, won the tender to build the lab, working along with ATCO and Manasc Isaac, of Alberta, architecture to create the lab.

“The visionary part of the project really is the learning lab,” said Brian Lacey, Clark Builders senior vice president energy and resources.

“The learning lab will be a place where people can play with alternative energies to figure out how the arrays work in different light and solar conditions through the seasons and cloud cover.”

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