EDMONTON -- A unique partnership between a solar energy company and an Edmonton inner city social services agency is hoping to benefit a budgetary bottom line while giving eager workers a chance to train for a new trade.

The Bissell Centre West has installed 78 solar panels on its roof in a partnership with Newo Global Energy. Donations and grants allowed the organization to not be out of pocket for the $65,000 cost of the project.

“The cost to us is zero to have the solar array installed," said the Bissell Centre Chief Operation Officer Louise Traynor. “But the benefit to us is about 18 per cent of the overall electrical use of this building over the course of a year. So that comes out to be about a thousand dollars a month. It helps us move those dollars straight from the gifts that our donors give us into the services that serve our participants directly.”

One of the programs the Bissell Centre runs is a casual labour pool, providing those looking for work an opportunity to earn a wage. The solar project is being used as a training ground for those wanting to learn new skills.

Bissell Centre

Vincent Markiewicz worked in the oil fields for over thirty years. Unemployed now, he was in the casual labour program when the opportunity to re-train was offered.

“You wouldn’t even think to even have an opportunity like this except the Bissell turned out and they’re holding something like this and it turns out to be a bonus for those looking to get ahead in life.”

Traynor tells CTV News Edmonton the change to improve their bottom line while helping those in need is an excellent opportunity.

“This cohort of people are 12 individuals who were interested in the renewable energy sector and so they’ve been able to participate in a course this week that the last two days features actual work installing an array. And the great part about this project is that this small array here on the decking is actually a training array so we can disassemble it and reassemble it without shutting off the entire power generation, for future training courses.”

Markiewicz and his other keen classmates feel fortunate to have been given the chance to learn new skills.

“I’m excited about it. A lot of guys are excited about it. It's something new, something with a potential of having a good turnaround for a guy.”