Canadian solar power project wins top environment award

Canada has scooped a top prize for environmental protection awarded by the Austrian foundation Energy Globe for a community project that uses solar-powered heating to warm local houses.

The Energy Globe World Award for Sustainability was handed to the Drake Landing Solar Community project in Alberta, west Canada, in a ceremony late Friday in Wels, Austria.

In the Canadian town of Okotoks, where temperatures drop well below freezing in winter, residents have devised a huge communal heat storage system.

Solar energy is collected in underground tubes during the summer and then used to heat 52 local homes in the winter.

This solar power currently meets 80 percent of the community’s energy needs and the project is on track to meet a target of 90 percent in 2012.

Projects in more than 50 countries competed for awards from Energy Globe, which supports around 1,000 projects in some 100 countries.

The Water prize went to a Nicaraguan charity that has used solar energy to pump and filter drinking water in rural communities since 2004.

In the Air category, judges honoured the Swiss supermarket chain Migros for the energy conservation policy it has had in place for the last 30 years and a project in the Swedish port of Gothenburg where an onshore power supply is provided using energy from wind turbines.

The Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, Russia, won the Earth award for a "passive energy" scheme that uses solar power to heat even the coldest Siberian living room.