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Your Commercial Rooftop Could Be A Source Of Income – Part One

Thanks to the Feed-In Tariff (FIT) program offered by the Ontario Power Authority (OPA), your roof could become a new long-term source of income. Many landlords and building owners are considering entering into a partnership with a solar energy developer to lease the roof to resell clean power into the grid, but they aren’t sure where to go or what questions to ask.

We sat down with Brent O’ Connor, IR/PR Director, and Tom Casagrande, Director of Business Development for Atlantic Wind & Solar Inc. to get their perspective on what building owners want to know.

Atlantic Wind & Solar Inc. is a Toronto based renewable energy company who is involved in well over 100 utility scale rooftop solar energy projects in Ontario, as well as solar projects in other regions who offer Feed In Tariff programs including France, Italy, Germany and India.

Initial Research and Planning

MC: What are the things that a landlord must look at before planning out their solar installation? What information needs to be gathered and measured by the landlord before they enter into a partnership with your firm or any other solar company?

AWS: There are many valid concerns landlords should have when choosing which type of rooftop solar energy program works best for them. There are three main options landlords have when leveraging their rooftops.

1.) Landlords may choose to purchase the entire system, and reap the revenues generated over the next 20 years from the Ontario Power Authority themselves. This method requires landlords to pay for the install 100% up front, and requires them to maintain the system throughout the entire life of the project. Most landlords do not want to be in the solar energy business, and view their rooftops as real estate, looking to be leased.

2.) They may choose to do a joint venture with a solar energy developer. (Not all companies offer this option). This requires the landlord to pay their percentage of the project up front. For example, if the agreement was based on a 50/50 joint venture, the landlord would pay 50% of the costs for the installation. The solar company would in turn service and maintain the system throughout the life of the contract. The revenues from the OPA are split over the next 20 years, according to the percentage of the partnership agreement.

3.) The third option, which is the most common route landlords choose, is to simply lease their rooftop to a solar energy developer. This could increase the cap rate of the building while securing them an additional 20 year, no hassle flow of revenues.

How to Choose Your Solar Energy Developer

When landlords are considering which solar energy developer to lease their rooftop to, there are several things to consider. Below are four main points, which may also be taken into consideration when choosing to own the system or when joint venturing.

The number one priority for most landlords should be mitigating any risk or potential damage to their rooftop. Some systems will compromise the roof membrane, especially when compounded with heavy snow loads and cold conditions. Stay away from less expensive ballasted/boot systems which place the entire load directly on the membrane. We also staying away from enclosed plastic mounting systems, which though they may effectively offset the load, may not allow the back of the panels to breathe, potentially causing excess heat while not insuring proper water drainage. This may jeopardize long-term factory warranties.

Atlantic uses a unique hybrid mounting system engineered to displace weight evenly, at only four pounds per square foot. This puts far less stress on the rooftop than most other systems. It is lined up over top of the main support trusses and beams and tied in to the main column.

Image Provided By Atlantic Wind and Solar

A ballasted system, or system that rests on the rooftop, may cause the roof to dip in certain areas over time, potentially affecting the drainage of the roof, while possibly causing excessive leakage. It’s important for landlords to remember, these systems are in place for at least twenty years.

The best way to alleviate load would be to tie in 100% to the building structure and have no weight on the rooftop. However this would require too many penetrations to be made to the roof membrane, which again may compromise the long term integrity of the building. The Atlantic system minimizes long term risk, by using a plate over top of the main supports which evenly distributes the load. It also significantly reduces the amount of penetrations, and where they occur. Most of the connections in the roof are limited to the North end of the building, which is the direction of most prevailing winds, where a proprietary moisture detection system is incorporated.

The moisture detection system is monitored 24/7 and detects the slightest amount of moisture which may get into any penetration, sending an alert, indicating the issue needs to be tended to before it can potentially turn into a leak.

Turnkey Solutions Are Preferable

Landlords want to make sure they are partnering with a professional company who will provide a complete turn key solution, to fulfill the project from start to finish, with the ability to properly maintain the project throughout its entire 20+ year life span. When choosing a solar energy developer, landlords need to remember that any solar developer is only as good as its partners. “The better the partners, the less risk that is presented to landlords and their buildings.” It may also prove to be beneficial to landlords not to lease their rooftop to a company who plans on selling the contract to another company, because you don’t know who you will end up working with.

As a well-funded publicly traded company, Atlantic is in a favourable position, only partnering with “best in class” partners who provide them with guaranteed project financing, designs, superior engineering, law, superior technologies,  the best insurance,  the maximum amount of risk management,  equipment proven to function properly in our climate accompanied with the best factory warranties available,  reliable maintenance, and monitoring.

When all of these factors are combined, they fulfill all integration and development aspects of the projects, extending well past the 20 year life of the contract.  It is Atlantic’s intention to own the projects throughout the entire duration of the 20 year FIT contract.

In Part Two, we’ll look at materials and the types of deals that are available to landlords. When finished, we will make the complete PDF Guide available for download on our site. Stay tuned for Part Two next week!

By Angela West, Editor, Monster Commercial

Related Articles

Oakville Hydro’s Rooftop Solar System

How To Lease the Rooftop of Your Ontario Commercial Property, Part One

How to Lease the Rooftop of Your Commercial Property, Part Two

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