Alberta's economic downturn an 'enlightenment,' says Devon mayor

In this economic downturn, one of Canada's oldest oil and gas towns is thinking outside the barrel.

Historic oil and gas town looks to solar to diversify its energy economy

The oil and gas town of Devon is trying to diversify its economy by building new solar initiatives and creating new homeowner incentives. (Getty Images)

In the middle of Alberta's economic downturn, one of Canada's oldest oil and gas towns is thinking outside the barrel. 

As some analysts predict that oil could drop as low as $10 a barrel, Devon Mayor Stephen Lindop is looking away from the town's traditional carbon roots and toward a sunnier future. 

The town recently installed a 100 kilowatt solar project with 393 panels at its community centre. It's a marked shift for a community that was built almost entirely by Imperial Oil after Leduc No. 1 struck black gold in 1947. 

"It's saving us money from day one," said Lindop in an interview with CBC's Alberta at Noon.

Lindophopes to extend the initiative to the fourteen other town buildings and plans to create new homeowner incentive programs for rooftop solar. 

"There could be solar panels put on buildings and homes across Alberta which would create all sorts of jobs and help diversify our economy," Lindop said.

In addition the town council is negotiating an innovative redevelopment of a 140-acre brownfield that used to be an Imperial Oil site. 

The project would include greenhouses built of transparent solar panels that would simultaneously generate electricity and produce not only food but also algae and other microbes for hydrocarbon remediation.

'The future is green,' says mayor

Nearly a quarter of the town's population works in oil and gas, but despite the layoffs, local government is calling the economic downturn an "enlightenment."

"We always have been an energy community. Now we understand the world that we're living in and the opportunity that exists," Lindop said.

"We're in a period of transition, and that's a very awkward time to be in.

"The future is green — there's just no doubt about that. We want to be part of that," said Lindop.


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