May 30, 2018

Solar panel lights up the Community Garden

Campus clubs collaborate to provide electricity for gardeners

Summer took a little longer than usual to arrive this year, but it was worth the wait for members of the UCalgary Community Garden Club near Cascade Hall — a new garden shed has been equipped with off-grid solar that will provide some electricity in a sustainable way to help power phones and other equipment.

Every year, the Community Garden Club invites dozens of members to connect with food by planting, tending and harvesting a bounty of fresh organic vegetables. This year, thanks to the help of another campus club, Emerging Leaders for Solar Energy (ELSE), the gardeners will be able to plug in while they work.

  • Above, members from left, Braden Mann, Stephen Chung, and Karthi Karunakaran, pose with the new garden shed equipped with solar power.

“We thought it would be really neat to collaborate with another club and provide electricity for the Community Garden because it’s not readily available there,” says Karthi Karunakaran, ELSE president. “While we can’t provide a big system to plug in a kettle or mini stove, we thought why not allow them to charge their cell phones or play some music while they’re working.”

The gardeners, who work an area about as long as a soccer field and about a quarter as wide, are looking forward to having access to some electricity in a sustainable manner. “We can charge a number of things,” says April Jang, the president of the Community Garden Club. “When we’re building construction projects around the garden, being able to charge our drills and other things like that is very important.”

And being able to plug in a mini entertainment system will be helpful for hosting social events at the garden. “We’re really hoping to get more people involved in the garden and invite other clubs out there, so I think having music will be pretty great,” she says. The Community Garden Club hosts Thursgarden every Thursday evening from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. and invites students, faculty and staff out to help with the garden. Anyone interested in taking part can show up at the garden starting at 5:30 p.m.

The two clubs were able to build the shed and install the solar equipment with funding from the SU Quality Money Fund, the SU Sustainability Fund, the Shell Experiential Energy Learning Awards Program and the Schulich School of Engineering. Members of the Community Garden Club and ELSE have been working together for about a year and a half to get the funding and build the shed.

“I can assure you that installing a solar panel system does not take this long — it’s actually quite simple. We’ve spent more than 100 hours on this project and 80 per cent was just building the shed,” says Karunakaran. “One of the first things we did was purchase a shop light with a bluetooth speaker attached to it, and it’s hanging inside the shed right now.”

Summer 2018 plot application update

2018 plot applications are now full, but contact the Office of Sustainability at to put your name on the wait list.

Join the Garden Club

The Garden Club is recruiting Garden Gnome members (open to students and non-students). Anyone interested in joining can email For more information, visit the Office of Sustainability’s website.