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Charlottetown hopes federal infrastructure funds can help expand use of solar power and biogas

As part of infrastructure funding that's expected to be available the City of Charlottetown hopes to create more renewable energy projects including solar panels and using bio gas.

'We're trying to reduce the CO2 emissions'

Solar panels the city recently installed at its Miltonvale well field project help produce power for the water pumps. (CBC)

The City of Charlottetown hopes federal infrastructure funding programs will help make the city a little greener.

Officials with Charlottetown's water and sewer utility want to expand the use of solar panels at its well fields and create a combined heat and power system using biogas emitted from its waste water treatment plant. 

'We need to find local solutions for this global issue,' says Richard MacEwen. (Laura Meader/CBC)

'It makes sense for the environment, we're trying to reduce the CO2 emissions," said Richard MacEwen, manager of the utility. 

Solar panels

The city recently installed solar panels at its new well field in Miltonvale Park. The panels can provide about one third of the electricity needed to pump water from the field.

MacEwen said by adding more solar panels, total electricity costs go down.

The city hopes to install more solar panels at the Miltonvale Park and Winter River well fields. 

City officials say the solar panels at the Miltonvale well field have worked well and they hope to install more, if infrastructure funds are available. (City of Charlottetown)

MacEwen said solar power could also be used at the waste water treatment plant and sewer lift stations. 

He said aside from the manufacturing that goes into solar panels, the panels themselves produce no CO2 emissions. 

Biogas production

At Charlottetown's waste water treatment plant there are so-called digesters which deal with solid waste. 

The bacteria in the systems breaks the waste-matter down and produces methane gas which is combustible.

Digester machines at the Charlottetown pollution control plant can be used to change solid waste into electricity. City officials say the biogas is similar to natural gas. (CBC)

MacEwen said they could generate heat and electricity from the biogas. 

"It becomes a fuel. It's very similar to natural gas," he said.

He said any electricity produced would likely be used on-site right away, but if there was an excess, it could go back into the grid and the city could get credits for the energy produced through Maritime Electric. 

'The economics works for us'

The renewable energy projects are part of a long list of expressions of interest the city has sent to the province that may qualify for infrastructure funding. 

The solar panel expansion is estimated to cost about $3.5 million, and the biogas system close to $1 million. 

MacEwen said infrastructure programs that share the cost of projects between federal, provincial and municipal governments make initiatives like this much more affordable for cities. 

"It's great when you can do something for the environment and it makes financial sense," MacEwen said. 

"The economics works for us at this funding level," he said. 

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