Since September, when the Ontario Power Authority began its generous payment for rooftop solar power, Toronto’s commercial roof acreage has become the site of a new renewable energy gold rush by solar developers now able to earn a steady income farming solar power to local utilities for 20 years.
Just as farmers in Texas or Iowa can now earn royalties from wind developers to allow them to place wind turbines on their farm, now commercial building owners in Toronto can earn income from their roofs.
Solar developers are willing to rent a part of a building that previously had no value, that is now prime solar real estate. How much is this new income for the building owner? It could be as much as $12,000 a year.
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Ontario Power Authority will now pay between 53 cents and 71 cents per kilowatt-hour for solar electricity. The utility guarantees a speedy, expedited connection to the grid so solar developers can be assured of a quick start to their earnings. And they are not the only beneficiary. The building owner and the solar developer both stand to gain.
Under the arrangement the utility pays the Feed-in Tariff amount monthly for 20 years. Once built, the solar farms can be expected to generate a steady income for 20 years to the solar developer.
Once they sign the lease, the solar companies design, build, and perform the maintenance on the system at no cost to the building owner. Both the solar developer and the building owner can earn money on the deal. Either a percent of the monthly payments from the utility can go directly to the building owner, or the solar developer can simply pay rent, averaging about 30 cents per square foot.
For example, a 250-kilowatt system that would take up 40,000 square feet on the roof would mean the building owner would earn about $1,000 a month in rent. At the end of the 20 year contract with the utility, the solar developer transfers the system to the building owner who then can benefit from the electricity for what could potentially be at least another 20 years, at slightly less efficiency.
Alternatively, compensation might be a guarantee to supply solar-sourced electricity over two decades for less than what a building owner currently pays, as CarbonFree Technology of Toronto has done. Of course the building has to undergo inspection to ensure that it can take the weight of such large solar arrays, because it may not have been engineered to handle that kind of load. (at least to put onto buildings) solar arrays.
Since September 1st, when the offer was announced, business has taken off. GTE, Ozz Solar, Helios Energy, Rumble Energy and SunOne Energy Canada are among a growing list of solar rooftop space aggregators knocking on doors.
Image: A commercial building array on WECS Electric