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Helping Albertans See the Light:

Helping Albertans See the Light:

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Clifton, President; Jourdan, Lead PV Installer; Andrew, Technical Sales Lead; April, HSSE Manager; Owen, Senior Project Manager; Julia, Operations Manager; Mark, Construction Manager and Dave, Quality Manager. Photo by Rebecca Lippiatt.

Great Canadian Solar (GCS) was founded in 2009 by Clifton Lofthaug and Tamara Chivers to be an industry leader in renewables and to specialize in engineering, procurement, and construction of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. The home-based business turned thriving corporation, and now celebrates 12 years of industry experience.

“The company was started from a passion to help people and businesses lessen their environmental footprint, says Lofthaug, president.

“From 2009 to 2014 we were the first solar company in Western Canada to have installed over 1.0 MW of solar capacity,” adds Julia Edgar, operations manager. “Five years later we celebrated the installation of 10.0 MW of solar capacity. We expect, in 2022, to be celebrating 100.0 MW of installed solar capacity.”

The first project was the Bocock farm system. “They provided us with our first opportunity even though we had no experience. This project launched GCS and we owe so much to the Bocock family,” says Lofthaug.

From there it was innovation and growth in quick succession. GCS is proud of its largest project to-date with a major Oil and Gas (O&G) refinery. For Lofthaug, this project has a special meaning.

“As an electrician, my dad helped build that O&G refinery in the 1980s and decades later I also spent several years working there as an electrician. Today I get to return to site in a role that will help the refinery shrink its carbon footprint and make it more competitive,” he says.

GCS is also an innovator in the field with its Solar Seacan Solution. As a mobile solar power source, the array can take the place of a diesel generator for a variety of applications including construction sites, festivals, and remote locations. If it’s cloudy out, a diesel backup turns on automatically. The system is fast and easy to set up with energy available within minutes. Customers that have used this Solar Seacan Solution report saving around 90 percent of generator run-time and being able to power full worksites including field offices and computers. 

However, it’s not just in the field where GCS focuses on innovation. The company prides itself on being inclusive and on being a 50 percent female-owned business. 

“We love to watch employees take on new roles and responsibilities,” says Edgar. “April Hartt is a great example. Having joined GCS in 2014, she went from little construction experience to becoming one of Canada’s most experienced female solar installers, and our company’s National Construction Safety Officer (NCSO).”

Edgar herself joined GCS after graduating from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology’s (NAIT) alternative energy program. She has been involved in multiple roles, from installation, regulatory approvals to technical sales, becoming one of GCS’s lead designers, to now the Operations Manager.

Interest in solar continues to grow and GCS is here to provide education and advocacy to help as many as possible make the transition. 

“Having a good understanding of what your utility bill means and how the grid operates from a high-level perspective, allows for individuals to make informed decisions about where they get their energy from and typically, we find they always choose solar,” says Lofthaug. “Soon after an installation, your utility provider will start to show Micro-generation (MG) credits on your bill. However, what they do not show you, and what takes a bit of understanding, is how your utility bill is structured. We pride ourselves in delivering what we know as the savings due to avoided costs. It is typically more beneficial for a client to consume the energy that is being produced from their PV system instead of exporting it to the grid for a credit because by consuming your solar energy, you are avoiding transmission and distribution charges caused by pulling from the grid. The $/kWh of solar energy is worth more to you than the credit that the retailer will provide.”

Switching to solar is more affordable than ever. Edgar says, “Solar has steadily declined in price over the past 10 years. The other key component to the faster ROI is that the reverse is happening with grid pricing. We typically see a steady increase in electricity pricing, making solar more and more attractive especially when carbon pricing is considered.”

GCS has solar solutions for businesses and worksites of all types and sizes. Visit www.greatcanadiansolar.com or call 780-455-7277 today to start reducing your carbon footprint and save on utility costs.

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