Standing on the roof of the Devon Community Centre surrounded by a 100 kilowatt solar photovoltaic system installed by his company Great Canadian Solar, Clifton Lofthaug sees Alberta on the cusp of an energy revolution.
Since his company’s inception in 2009, “we’ve been experiencing on average about 300 percent growth, which is very challenging, like having the tiger by the tail. But it’s something we’ve been able to manage and we’re very excited,” says Clifton.
Initially, Clifton began his career as a journeyman electrician and registered at NAIT in the Electrical Engineering Technology program when he sought to advance his career by moving into a design role. Then, after eight years in the engineering industry, he followed his entrepreneurial instincts and branched out into the solar industry. He’s never looked back.
Solar technology has certainly grown in popularity. As Clifton explains, when he first started doing solar installations, “people were doing it for purely green reasons. Now what we’re finding is most people who are installing solar are doing it for very sound economic reasons as well.” He says it’s very attractive to customers to learn they will pay off their solar installation within 10-15 years, while also generating energy credits by feeding extra power back into the grid.
Devon Mayor Stephen Lindop is so pleased with the community centre that he plans to install solar photovoltaic systems on other municipal buildings in town. “It’s not a question of ‘if we should do this’, it’s ‘when are you going to get on board’,” he says.
As the solar market expands and Alberta’s energy industry diversifies, Clifton sees NAIT as perfectly positioned to help meet the demand by actively training entrepreneurs and advancing new technologies. Through NAIT programs such as Alternative Energy Technology, students are able to enter a rapidly evolving energy industry that has started to run on more than just oil and coal. “It’s very empowering to give people the ability to produce their own power,” Clifton says. “There are hardly any other technologies that will let them do that.”