Could Panasonic solar storage system solve Muskoka cottage blackout?

MUSKOKA LAKES — October 6, 2017

People crowded into Jiri and Simone Skopek’s cottage in Torrance as rain pelted the nearby lake.

“I wanted to be many things, including a nuclear physicist, and I ended up being an architect,” Jiri smiled to the small crowd on Sept. 29. “When I was graduating as an architect, I was really interested in solar energy.”

The couple was cutting the ribbon on the first cottage-based solar and energy storage installation in Ontario after partnering for the pilot with Panasonic Eco Solutions Canada.

The 1,600-square-foot cottage’s system linked solar panels to an inverter that converted the energy into electricity to power the cottage and charge a lithium-ion battery. The stored energy could offset grid consumption during peak hours or run the cottage during a blackout.

“We have a lot of vulnerable people who aren’t able to heat their houses when their electricity goes out." — Muskoka Lakes mayor Don Furniss

The system included both Tabuchi Electric and Panasonic technology. It produced roughly 89 per cent of the energy used at the cottage in the summer.

Jiri said his interest in solar energy took him to a conference where he connected mostly with nuclear physicists who were shifting into the solar industry.

That was 1971.

“I had just started a job in England, in a new city, and I helped build the first solar house in England,” he said. “That set me on being interested in the environment and solar energy.”

The couple was one of the first to join the Forum for International Trade Training (FITT) program after moving to Toronto. The aim, he said, was environmental protection.

And it was when the couple started rebuilding their cottage, purchased by Jiri’s parents around 1976, as part of their retirement plans that they met with Panasonic.

Tabuchi Electric representative Michael Donnelly (left), cottage owner Jiri Skopek and Muskoka Lakes mayor Don Furniss discuss solar energy and environmental issues, as Panasonic Eco Solutions Canada unveils the first cottage-based solar and energy storage installation in Ontario on Sept. 29. - Alison Brownlee/Metroland

Tabuchi Electric representative Michael Donnelly (left), cottage owner Jiri Skopek and Muskoka Lakes mayor Don Furniss discuss solar energy and environmental issues, as Panasonic Eco Solutions Canada unveils the first cottage-based solar and energy storage installation in Ontario on Sept. 29. - Alison Brownlee/Metroland

Simone (left) and Jiri Skopek have the first solar and energy storage cottage installation in Ontario. They are reducing their environmental footprint of their Muskoka Lakes cottage, which can now also run on stored solar power in the event of a blackout. - Alison Brownlee/Metroland

The batteries for the Skopek cottage solar and energy storage installation take little floor space in a main-floor office. - Alison Brownlee/Metroland