Solar co-op makes pitch to Orangeville council
A group in Orangeville is trying to get people to buy into the idea of solar energy – literally.
The Green Pathways Community Solar Cooperative Inc., along with its partner, Orangeville Hydro, approached Orangeville council at its April 4 meeting seeking a commitment from the town to lease the roof of its C Line operations centre to install solar PV (photovoltaic) panels.
The solar co-op was also exploring the possibility of installing panels on the roofs of the Alder Street Recreation Centre and the Tony Rose Memorial Sports Complex.
The attraction of such a deal would be that the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) would pay 70.2 cents a kilowatt hour when the power was sold back to the grid through its Feed In Tariff (FIT) program.
As for the C Line installation, Orangeville Hydro president George Dick said approximately $40,000 in repairs would be required for the roof to make it ready to accept the system.
Public works director Jack Tupling said there was money in his department’s budget to cover the cost.
Councillor Scott Wilson then asked why, if there is such a lucrative return on investment, should the town not go out on its own and bypass the co-operative. Mr. Dick responded by pointing out that the town would be responsible for the purchase, installation and maintenance of the solar system.
In a later interview, Mr. Dick explained that going the co-op route made sense from a homeowner’s stand point, the Green Pathways co-op is more feasible than going out on one’s own.
“If you have to borrow to finance a solar array and restructure your roof, we find that one project is not financially feasible. But several together would be.”
There are other reasons for the solar co-op.
Green Pathways Community Solar Co- Operative Inc. was formed so that customers who are interested in installing solar PV systems, but do not want to purchase an entire system on their own or are in a situation where their roof is not conducive to a system installation, can have ownership in a solar PV system through shared ownership.
This would be accomplished by owning shares in the co-op. It could cost as little as $50 to buy in, but a practical investment would be around $500.
Since FIT is an initiative of the provincial Liberal government, Councillor Jeremy Williams spoke at the council meeting and asked Mr. Dick what would happen if there was a change of government.
Speaking at a recent Greater Dufferin Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak lambasted the program and gave the impression that the Tories, who enjoy a lead in the polls, would end it if they gained power.
Mr. Dick answered by saying that if the OPA granted a Notice to Proceed before Sept. 1, the deal would be a lock, regardless of who was in charge at Queens Park after the October 6 election.
He did admit in the later interview, however, that it is unlikely the project would be ready in time. As well, the co-op couldn’t be in a position to sell shares until the notice is in place.
As for the PCs' adamant stand against FIT, Mr. Dick said, “we’re hoping they may take some time and re-evaluate it before they make up their minds.”
He said that 65 per cent of the current energy generation in the province needs to be replaced by 2019 and the bill could be as high as $40 billion.
Mr. Dick also alluded to a statement by Ontario’s environmental commissioner, Gordon Miller, that renewables such as wind and solar energy account for only 0.4 cents of the current cost of electricity.
The figures presented to the town concerning the operations centre lease were that the revenue to the town would be approximately $4,065 per year for as long as the FIT contract remains in place.
The preceding dollar amount is based on using 8,650 square feet of the roof. The FIT contracts are currently 20-year contracts.
However depending on the timing of the installation, however, this could become less than 20 years.
The co-op would be prepared to pay the first ten years roof rental when the installation is energized and grid connected in order to assist the town with the cost of the roof repairs. In year 11 of the system being operational, the co-op would start paying the yearly rent.