Roofs for rays, Toronto schools sign onto 66 MW solar scheme

Photovoltaic panels with an expected output of between 58 and 66 megawatts (MW) are to be installed on the roofs of around 450 schools in the Canadian city of Toronto. In return for the space, much needed repairs will be carried out on the roofs themselves.

The exact number of solar installations will be determined by the schools and the AMP Solar Limited Partnership on a "school-by-school" basis according to the suitability of the school itself, the state of its roof and once a feed-in tariff (FIT) contract from the Ontario Power Authority has been received.

AMP Solar Limited Partnership is a joint venture between AMP Solar Group and Potentia Solar Inc. Potentia’s president and chief operating officer Chris Asimakis explained to pv magazine that instead of leasing the roof space, the partnership will instead repair school roofs, many of which are in a poor state. "To access roof space, we typically offer a lease payment to be on the roof over the course of the 20 years. What we’ve done here is offer roof repair in lieu of payment."

The project is expected to take three to four years and Asimakis told pv magazine that because the total installation is across a large number of schools, with roofs in various states of disrepair, solar installation can occur immediately on some, while repairs must first take place on others.

"For a school that had a new roof put of two or three years ago, we’ll immediately go and put panels on that roof, because we know that roof will be good for at least 20 years. We’re also going to work of roofs that the school board have identified as being critical, so we’ll repair those roofs immediately."

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) described the solar installation agreement as a win-win for the schools and for the environment. "By installing solar panels, Toronto communities will get clean green energy (and) schools will receive much-needed roof repairs," said TDSB chair Chris Bolton.

There is also an educational aspect to the installation with students at the newly solar equipped schools able to learn about the sustainable energy systems. Potentia’s Lorne Stephenson told pv magazine that this is a major part of the project. "One of the biggest pieces (of this project) is that the TDSB wanted curriculum activity on behalf of solar (and we were able) to transfer what’s going on on their roof into an educational module."

The solar panels for the targeted 66 MW of installation will largely be sourced from the local area, Asimakis explained, and while the final decision on a particular supplier has not yet been made, Ontario has seen rapid growth in the number of manufacturers moving into the area.

"There’s a special sort of nuance in the Ontario marketplace where there’s a requirement for a certain amount of equipment and labor and engineering to be sourced from Ontario. And as a result there are more than a dozen of solar panel manufacturers setting up some sort of operation here."