By: Nancy Ghuman
This is a Green Energy Doors Open feature story. To learn more, visit greenenergydoorsopen.ca
Jutta Splettstoesser moved from Germany to Canada in 1993, and within a year she had married her husband and started a family on a 300-acre farm in Kincardine. After raising pigs and sheep for years, they decided to trade livestock for solar, wheat, and non-GMO soy, and they haven’t looked back.
Jutta has always been interested in renewable energy, which is much more commonplace in Germany. It was the threat of another form of energy, however – nuclear energy – that led the Splettstoessers to go solar. Living in Kincardane, and in the second emergency zone of the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station, they wanted to show their four children that there are other, safer ways to produce power.
In 2010, the Splettstoesser’s invested $80,000 in their first 10kW, 60-panel solar array. Two years later, the family installed a second, even larger project, investing $400,000 and installing a 55kW, 294-panel array. The 10KW project sits on the roof of a barn once home to their pigs, while the second sits on the roof of another larger barn. Both projects have been signed onto MicroFIT and FIT contracts with the Province. In addition, The Splettstoesser’s have solar thermal heaters that supply their hot water throughout the year, and they’ve started talking about the possibility of a wind turbine installation in the future.
Being home to one of the first renewable energy projects in Kincardine, the Splettstoessers have become energy leaders in their neighborhood, and inspired many others to install solar power generation systems on their farms and properties. Currently, Jutta is assisting another farmer on a 70 KW generation project. She has had a major influence on her children as well; her eldest son is training at St. Lawrence College in Kingston to be a wind turbine technician, and is already working with wind turbines close to their home.
Jutta’s desire to educate and advocate for renewables has recently led her to into a career in politics. She explains that one of the biggest challenges in pursuing solar on her property was the tedious paperwork involved, and she hopes that Ontario will one day adopt the same ease and accessible model that Germany has when it comes to applying for FIT contracts. To help this become a reality, Jutta has become the Energy Critic for the Green Party of Ontario, and serves on the provincial executive. She is also currently running for the Green Party of Canada in the riding of Huron-Bruce.
Jutta feels the best way to educate the public on renewable energy is through physical interaction with a project, and so she and her entire family are thrilled to be participating in GEDO 2015. She explains, “When people interact with others who generate renewable energy and ask questions, that’s when they truly come to learn and understand it.” This year, Jutta hopes to showcase the farm’s solar installations, as well as their solar thermal heating system. If her story hasn’t inspired you yet, take drive out to The Splettstoesser’s farm and experience it for yourself!
Nancy Ghuman is in her final year of her Master in Environmental Studies degree at York University. She is interested in Community Energy Planning, and is focusing her thesis research on developing an energy plan for a rural community in Costa Rica.