BOW VALLEY – A new green, grassroots cooperative is gearing up to launch in the valley.
Working on the creation of community-owned renewable energy generation projects, board member Jodi Conuel said it started last year with a feasibility study through the Biosphere Institute that has now turned into the Bow Valley Green Energy Cooperative.
"This is a grassroots, socially-responsible enterprise – we have a vision to make renewable energy affordable and accessible to the Bow Valley [which] is why it's important to us, we are community-led and volunteer-driven," Conuel said.
With a soft-launch earlier this summer, the idea is to get community interest and investment in renewable energy projects, where the cooperative partners with local institutions, municipalities or businesses. Membership investment will help pay for the project installation where the cooperative then sells electricity generated back to the grid and shares the profits with investors and also invests profits back into community projects.
"This is a way to utilize local funds to develop renewable energy projects, profits from which will be put directly back into the community," Conuel said.
Brainstorming started in early 2019, when the Biosphere Institute received funds from Energy Efficiency Alberta's Community Generation Capacity Building Program. A steering committee was formed and the Biosphere explored ways for community-based mechanisms to finance renewable energy developments.
Many businesses and households in the Bow Valley do not have access to renewable energy sources due to rental status and a lack of ability to host solar panels, Conuel said, and with most renewable energy project owned by corporations, the future of renewable energy could shift to a lot of out-of-province ownership.
The goal is to empower the community to reduce its environmental impact by adding renewable energy projects while also helping the valley transition to a more sustainable future.
"We are kind of trailblazing," Conuel said with a laugh.
"Community generation, which is new in Alberta, [this] is new in a different way."
Formed as a social enterprise, Conuel said the cooperative needs volunteers and memberships to work.
While the cooperative is not selling memberships quite yet, organizers said they are currently accepting Bow Valley Green "friends" or volunteers and to keep an eye out on their social media pages and website for when memberships are available.
A lifetime membership will cost $100, with the option to invest in future Bow Valley Green renewable energy projects by purchasing shares on a project-by-project basis.
"The business model is currently under rigorous development – we have a good starting point for our business plan, but we need to make sure it is ironclad and in good shape," she said.
Right now the Bow Valley Green Energy Cooperative is looking into five potential renewable energy sites with partners such as the Grizzly Paw Pub and Brewing, and Discover Banff Tours to install solar panels on the rooftops.
While focusing on solar right now, board members said future projects can range from hydro, solar, geothermal or wind.
"We are trying really hard to get all the pieces together which is why we are looking for volunteer support to keep it moving forward," Conuel said.
Go to bvgreenenergy.org for more information.