Red Deer College has officially opened a $10-million laboratory that it hopes will allow the school to develop new energy sources.
“This is a great day for this institution because it says we’re going to be leaders in environmental alternative energy,” said college president Joel Ward.
“We now think we have the kind of facilities and kind of partners that will draw a lot of industry here to central Alberta, particularly in the area of alternative energy.”
Each year, about 1,000 students from various programs, including engineering technologies and carpentry, will learn in the Alternative Energy Lab, which was a joint-project between RDC and the federal government.
Ward said the lab will focus on three key areas: solar energy, waste energy and battery storage for alternative energy.
“We think we can be leaders in all three of those spaces,” he said.
In total, RDC has installed more than 4,000 solar panels across the main campus. About 23 per cent of the annual electricity needs are generated from solar power, which reduces CO2 emissions by almost 1,100 tonnes per year.
“It’s important we set an example,” Ward said. “If we’re going to be teaching about environmentalism, if we’re going to be teaching alternative energy … we have to show that it works, it can save money and help the environment.”
RDC’s goal is to be carbon neutral in five years.
Trades and technologies dean Joel Gingrich said the facility was designed to be a flexible space, so it can adapt to emerging and evolving technology.
“As innovators come along with new ideas for technology, it’s a place we can help them research and study that.
“It’s versatile, whether we’re working with students in full-time programs or industry in the area. We can take it any area we need to,” said Gingrich.
Gingrich said innovation can come from anywhere.
“Students may be the innovators, it may be a contractor in the region, it may be a community member who has something new they may be able to do around alternative energy, which could be as simple as a piece of hardware or a complex new form of science,” he said.
Construction on the facility began in 2017.