In January of 2010, Oakville Hydro announced that they had become one of the first businesses in Oakville to install solar panels on the roof of its headquarters at Fourth Line and Wyecroft Road. The 58 panels form a 10-kilowatt system that would power three residential homes for a year.
Part One of our interview with them covered the initial planning stages of the installation. Here, we cover the actual installation and the benefits. The interview was conducted with Scott Mudie, Vice President of Generation and Energy Services at Oakville Hydro.
MC: How long did the installation take, and were there any pitfalls in the process that you did not foresee in the planning stage that will benefit other installations?
SM: Planning was a three month process and the installation took five full working days. My advice to others doing the same thing would be to engage the local municipal building department early, so that enough time is allowed to gather whatever documentation they might require.
MC: Are there any ongoing maintenance issues that need to be addressed to support the system?
SM: We are doing everything ourselves, and so far the system has performed as expected with minimal maintenance. The only item remaining is something we expected going into this; the logistics of replacing the roof at some point in the life of the solar system need to be worked out. This has been built in to the plan for the system.
MC: There are many companies vying for a piece of the solar energy business opportunity; if a building owner is considering installing a system; should they go and install one on their own or partner with a provider that already has all the experience?
SM: We worked with a turnkey provider, Peter Korth of Clarkson Energy Solutions. If it is a small project like ours you would look at a turnkey provider and you should be able to get a firm bid price. If it is a larger project, you should look at an RFP or RFQ scenario or contracting it out to a project management firm.
MC: What should an owner look for if they are go to a partner?
SM: Look for experience in solar installations and the ability to bring in structural, electrical, and design expertise. Get a full financial and operating forecast for the project and the guarantees that come with that. Each manufacturer has their own warranty, but guarantees by the contractor over and above those warranties are generally project-specific.
Understand what is included in the price. The OPA process, applications, building permits, ESA approvals, interconnection with the LDC (utility), make sure they are all included. Ensure that the entire administrative process as well as the system is included in the price.
MC: After 1 year of installation has the system produced the expected return on investment?
SM: Yes, it has lived up to expectations financially. In fact, we are slightly ahead of forecast partially because of the exceptional summer we experienced.
Rates of return also depend on the financing terms that the company can negotiate. Not everyone has the same access to funding. Go shopping for interest rates that complement a locked-in 20 year contract.
MC: Anything else that Oakville Hydro would like to add?
SM: We are currently looking at two installations in Halton. Both are 100 kilowatt systems. We are moving ahead with projects and welcome calls from people in Halton/GTA that are looking to understand more about installing rooftop solar systems.
If you want to get in touch with Oakville Hydro about their rooftop solar system, visit their website.
By Angela West, Monster Commercial
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