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Facility Rental

Renting roof for solar panels? Not worth the risk, North Grenville decides

This story is about solar power, not wind, but is remarkable for two reasons: first, a municipality actually took a measured approach to a decision about “green” energy, and second, the results of the thorough impact analysis showed there was little or no benefit to the municipality from putting solar panels on a public building. In fact, there were substantial liabilities.

If the same approach were to be taken for wind power projects, including an analysis of such impacts as property value loss and social costs, we believe the result could be the same: wind power is high-impact for low benefit.

Two Auditors General have recommended that the province undertake a cost-benefit analysis for its whole green energy program—this has never been done. Kudos to North Grenville.

Kemptville Advance, September 17, 2016


Jennifer Westendorp

Staff have recommended to council not to proceed with the proposal to install solar panels on the North Grenville Municipal Centre arena roof.

SunSmart Solar, a company located in Kemptville, made the presentation at the Aug. 24 committee of the whole meeting, requesting the municipality consider leasing the arena roof for 20 years for the installation of solar panels as part of the provincial Feed-In-Tariff Program (FIT).

… Mark Guy, director of parks, recreation and culture, conducted an analysis of the benfits and risk involved with the proposal which he presented September 8.

“There are many factors to consider when assessing the installation of solar panels onto the NGMC roof,” the document read, “as part of the FIT program, including the insurance and risk tolerance, safety of fire personnel, approval from the building owner, installation and maintenance, terms of the proposal under the FIT program and the procurement process.”

…the municipality’s risk manager, Frank Cowan Company, expressed concerns about liability exposures and more particularly the tenant’s legal liability and the general liability coverage…. Guy added the municipality’s insurance premium would increase as a result of the installation.

He [Guy] said the second things staff considered when looking over the proposal was the safety of fire personnel, such as the ability to shut down the electricity in the event of a fire in a building equipped with a solar panel system that generates electricity.

He said the third factor considered was approval from the building owner. Guy explained the NGMC is not owned solely by the municipality, but rather a separate and distinct corporation known as the North Grenville Community Care Corporation … a P3 Partnership…This separate corporation is owned by the municipality and the Taggart Group of Companies. Guy said the NGMC was not designed based on climatic data for the area and certain collateral loads, which didn’t include solar panels. [Editor’s note: Translation–the roof wasn’t designed to bear the additional load of solar panels.]

…SunSmart anticipates never having to go on the roof for maintenance. “The panels will not be cleaned off in the winter months,” said Guy. “The issue of falling snow would be a concern because the surface of the panels are less resistant, allowing snow to fall on the parking lot area, possibly damaging vehicles or injuring pedestrians.”

The final factor considered was the terms of the proposal under the FIT program. Guy said SunSmart proposed after 20 years, ownership of the panels would pass to the municipality at no cost, with a projection the panels would be at mid-life by then.