In early fall of 2014, a group of 13 Galiano families who were interested in installing solar energy systems began meeting to discuss the possibilities. Galiano resident Tom Mommsen did extensive research about available systems and costs, and the group decided to collaborate on a “bulk buy” of high quality solar equipment, including over 300 solar panels. Several solar vendors were asked for quotes to supply the equipment, and in March of 2015, Viridian Energy Co-op was selected. Viridian is a workers’ co-operative based in the Cowichan valley on Vancouver Island.
Tom Mommsen not only did a tremendous amount of research but he also worked closely with each of the families to get their systems installed, either on their rooftops or on stand-alone ground mount frames. Professional electricians were involved for some of the installation work, but there was a lot of “do it yourself” effort too. The majority of the systems were designed to be connected to the electricity grid (“grid-tied”), although some were off-grid. Most of the systems were installed by the end of 2015, and a few early in 2016. Throughout the process everyone learned a lot about electrical code requirements and the BC Hydro net-metering program.
Over the next year as word spread about the success of the group purchase initiative, other residents on Galiano, as well as on other islands, began to ask when the next bulk buy was going to happen. There was also growing interest in exploring the possibility of creating a community-scale solar “farm” that would allow people to invest in the solar future by purchasing shares in a larger facility. It became clear that a formal organization was going to be needed to coordinate a larger scale group purchase, to work towards a community solar farm, and to advocate for the renewable energy agenda on the islands. It was concluded that forming a for-profit cooperative would be the best way to do this. With the advice and support of Vancity Credit Union, the Salish Sea Renewable Energy Co-op was registered in January 2018, and the first Annual General Meeting of the new Co-op was held in March 2018.