Solar-powered cheese

Sylvan Star Cheese is drawing on the sun to keep its award-winning cheeses cool.

Sylvan Star Cheese is drawing on the sun to keep its award-winning cheeses cool.

The cheese makers recently flipped the switch on a solar energy system that will produce enough power annually for about 14 average-sized homes.

It will also provide enough juice to allow the cheese producers to become net-zero energy users, meaning they will put as much power into the grid as they take out.

Red Deer-based CarbonBite Innovations installed the system, which is comprised of 460 solar panels mounted on the roughly 12,000-square-foot roof of Sylvan Star Cheese’s facility a few kilometres west of Red Deer on Hwy 11A.

Jennie Schalkwyk, who with husband John, owns Sylvan Star Cheese said with all of the sunshine they get the saw potential for easing power costs with solar energy.

They spend about $2,000 a month on power, much of it used for air conditioning and refrigerating to keep their products cool.

It cost about $300,000 to install the system, which the Schalkwyks’ expect to recoup in about seven years.

Sylvan Star Cheese showcased its brand new solar system on Friday as part of the third annual Alberta Green Energy Doors Open. The event encourages users, producers and advocates of green energy to show off some of the local achievements.

Kerry Wood Nature Centre and an off-grid passive solar monolithic dome in Lacombe County also participated this year.

Mark Whittaker, who handles technical design with CarbonBite, said the Sylvan Star Cheese solar array is the biggest private system in Red Deer County and likely Central Alberta.

Built and installed with no subsidies, the system is designed to provide power for the cheese farm’s air conditionining, refrigerating and other power needs for 25 years.

Excess power produced in the summer is sold into the province’s electrical grid. In the winter, when solar power production is down, electricity is bought from the grid. In the end, the two will balance out.

Solar power can be a good option, especially for commercial users, requiring large amounts of power.

Central Alberta and is more than 1,200 hours of sunlight a year has plenty of natural power at hand.

“It’s a good location for solar,” said Whittaker.

While the current low electricity prices make converting to solar a tougher sell, that situation won’t last forever.

“There’s nowhere to go but up,” said Whittaker.

The system installed at Sylvan Star Cheese will produce about 137,000 kWh per year. A typical house uses about 8,000 to 10,000 kWh.

There is plenty of potential for residential applications as well. A south-facing roof not encumbered with vents or chimneys is ideal to mount solar panels.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chris Scott, owner of The Whistle Stop Cafe, was put in handcuffs after an anti-restriction protest Saturday in the parking lot of the business. (Screenshot via The Whistle Stop Facebook page)
UPDATE: Central Alberta cafe owner arrested after anti-restriction protest

The owner of a central Alberta cafe, which was the site of… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer now has 911 active COVID-19 cases

Central zone has 2,917 active cases

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre's expansion project is still a high priority, says Alberta Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer hospital ICU admissions stable, but rising, says surgeon

The Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s intensive care unit is in better… Continue reading

Alberta recorded a single-day record of over 57,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered. (Photo courtesy Alberta Health Services Twitter)
Alberta hits daily record of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered

Central zone has administered 111,735 doses of the COVID-19

FILE - A firefighter wears a mask as he drives his truck. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward, File
VIDEO: Flames rip through Edmonton-area seniors complex, but no fatalities

ST. ALBERT, Alta. — Fire has destroyed part of a retirement complex… Continue reading

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, is setting off a social media reaction with his calls to stop non essential shopping, such as "buying sandals at Costco", with this photo of his worn sandals, which he published to social media on Saturday, May 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Dr. Robert Strang, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Nova Scotia’s top doctor sparks meme with caution on non-essential shopping

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s top doctor has launched a social media meme… Continue reading

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. Canada's chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Tam warns that full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Canada’s chief public health officer reminded Canadians on Saturday that even those… Continue reading

Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour conducts drills during NHL hockey training camp in Morrisville, N.C., Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
NHL relaxing virus protocols for vaccinated playoff teams

The NHL is relaxing virus protocols for teams that reach a threshold… Continue reading

Canada skip Kerri Einarson directs her teammates against Sweden in a qualification game at the Women's World Curling Championship in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, May 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canada’s Einarson eliminated at curling worlds after 8-3 loss to Sweden’s Hasselborg

CALGARY — Canada’s Kerri Einarson was eliminated at the world women’s curling… Continue reading

Jennifer Coffman, owner of Truffle Pigs in Field, B.C., poses beside her business sign on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in this handout photo. Her restaurant and lodge have been hit hard by a closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway and by the British Columbia government discouraging Alberta residents from visiting during the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jennifer Coffman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘Why we survive’: B.C. boundary towns struggle without Albertans during pandemic

Jennifer Coffman didn’t expect to get hit with a double whammy at… Continue reading

A courtroom at the Edmonton Law Courts building, in Edmonton on Friday, June 28, 2019. The effect of the coronavirus pandemic will have a lasting impact on the Canadian justice system warn a number of legal experts. The Alberta Court of Queen's Bench announced Sunday it would adjourn all scheduled trials across the province for at least 10-weeks limiting hearings to only emergency or urgent matters. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton mother found guilty of manslaughter in death of five-year-old girl

EDMONTON — An Edmonton woman was found guilty Friday of manslaughter in… Continue reading

A Statistics Canada 2016 Census mailer sits on the key board of a laptop after arriving in the mail at a residence in Ottawa, May 2, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Statistics Canada sees more demand to fill out census online during pandemic

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says the response to the census is higher… Continue reading

Travellers, who are not affected by new quarantine rules, arrive at Terminal 3 at Pearson Airport in Toronto, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. Ottawa will create a new digital platform to help in processing immigration applications more quickly and efficiently after COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for a faster shift to a digital immigration system, the immigration department said. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ottawa to create new system to tackle delays in processing immigration applications

Ottawa says it will create a new digital platform to help process… Continue reading

Most Read