Drake Landing…

Written by: Marvin Baker

Have you ever heard of a place called Drake Landing? I didn’t either until I read a recent news article about it.
Drake Landing is perhaps the most unique community in North America because more than 90 percent of the power to heat the 52 homes in Drake Landing is solar.

What’s even more unique is that this community isn’t in south Florida, Texas or Arizona. It’s right in the middle of oil country in Alberta.

Drake Landing is part of the city of Okotoks, situated 30 miles south of Calgary. It was established in 2006, exceeding the expectations and objectives set by the project’s financial backers.

What’s different about Drake Landing’s apparatus from solar farms or communities in the southern United States, is that it uses seasonal energy from the sun. In other words, because Calgary is above 51 Degrees North Latitude, the summer days are long and peak at nearly 18 hours of sunlight.

Thus, solar energy is used for kitchen stoves, hot water heating, air conditioning, turning on the lights and watching TV. And because much more is produced than needed during the summer, the additional power is stored to be used during the winter. This is unlike the United States. Here, if you create excess power, it is sold back to the local electric company.
Anyone who is aware of western Canada and Calgary, knows it gets as cold and sometimes colder than North Dakota in the winter. The only thing different is it has more daylight in the summer than we do, reversing itself to less daylight than we have in the winter.

The 52 homes at Drake Landing range in size from 1,500 square feet to almost 1,700 square feet. They have higher insulation values than required by code, they have an air-tight building envelope and energy efficient windows.
Each home has a stand alone solar hot water heater with a conventional, high-energy, natural gas heater as a backup.
The project cost $14.6 million in 2006, but it included an energy center adjacent to the community; 144 underground, thermal energy storage bore holes dug just over 100 feet deep. The excess is stored there and released in the winter using a district heating system.

Drake Landing has reduced greenhouse gases, it is a model for the future of sustainable residential heating systems and it has won multiple international building, environmental and sustainability awards.
But it’s not without issues.

Because this community is so cutting edge, there’s really no “owner’s manual” when something breaks down. And, the people who live in Drake Landing can’t just call an electrician. Yes, it’s electricity, but on a totally different scale.
Today, after 18 years of operation, the people who have built Drake Landing said anyone else who wants to build a model like it, should do a careful analysis before proceeding because it is so new and very few people are familiar with how the entire system works.

But, Tim Corbey, a spokesman for Drake Landing, is convinced this is the future of home heating across the province of Alberta, the same province that produces the greatest amount of oil in Canada.
Could something like this work in North Dakota, and more specifically in northwest North Dakota where the Bakken oil is located?

It can work anywhere as long as the initiative and financial backing is there.
There isn’t a lot of solar power in North Dakota now, but as the industry becomes more efficient and solar panels become more affordable, you’ll see solar panels on houses and solar farms popping up.

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