CUMBERLAND – Jason Jackson is a renewable energy pioneer.

His company, Hakai Energy Solutions, is paving new paths in power generation, finding innovative solutions for BC’s most remote communities.

With an extensive background as an electrician, Jackson has married his technical knowledge of the trade with cutting edge solar technology, producing Canada’s first commercially scaled hybrid solar/diesel generating system.

In early 2010, his company was hired to work on a generator on Calvert Island for the Hakai Institute.

“When working on this project, we used products and designs that had never been used in Canada, and had only been incorporated into a few research and development projects world-wide,” says Jackson. “We were working outside of industry norms. We had a product that was new, integrating power generation sources including solar and diesel generators and battery storage in an expandable, modular fashion.”

Once this client, Eric Peterson, realized what was possible, he entered into business with Jackson, partnering with him to move the company into this innovative side of the industry.

“At this time, my long-time mentor, Ron Leigh, retired, and we had to create a new company,” says Jackson. “This moved us into a new phase of the company as we leveraged this job to get more business of this kind.”

Many of BC’s off-grid sites rely on diesel power generators for their energy needs, and continual generator operation comes at a high cost. These machines can consume between 500 and 1000 litres of diesel per day, and in some cases, much more.

By coupling the diesel systems with a solar power system, and integrating them with an energy storage system, Hakai’s installations have resulted in a dramatic decrease in fuel consumption for these sites.

“The Hakai Institute, our first project, was using about 500 litres of diesel per day before we installed this hybrid system,” says Jackson. “When we started tracking the site’s fuel consumption in 2011, about a year after we installed the system, it had decreased to about 75 litres per day.”

Even with the soaring cost of fuel and the proven efficiency of Hakai’s energy systems, they have little to no competition for this particular product.

“It’s a hard field to operate in,” says Jackson. “Being an expert in renewable energy doesn’t automatically make you qualified to install these types of systems. Neither does being a good trade contractor. There’s a lot of risk to take on

“We see new market entrance in grid-tied solar installations all the time, but off-grid systems involve a lot more risk and require in-depth knowledge of new technology. For that reason, we see more people exiting this market than entering.”

Since Hakai stands at the forefront of emerging off-grid energy system technology, they are working to produce up-to-date resources to educate others about the industry.

“Because we’re operating in a field that is continually innovating, we’ve started compiling case studies of our projects,” says Jackson. “When researching solar technology and the options available, many people only have access to out-of-date information, compiled by people who aren’t responsible for the end performance.

“We see the back end of these systems, and have compiled the real financial costs and benefits of our systems. These case studies are a great way to take a deep dive into the actual mechanics of the system and the economic pros and cons.”