Downtown West Multi-Unit Solar Energy Project

When 50 people from multi-unit residential buildings attended a late September 06 meeting at the Harbourfront Community Centre, it confirmed that there is great interest among many in seeing solar water heating and solar electricity-generating projects sprout on the rooftops of downtown condos, co-ops and rental buildings. More than 50% of Toronto residents live in multi-unit buildings, yet there are financial and other challenges that make it difficult to establish solar energy projects on their rooftops.

Since September, an all-volunteer working group has brought together representatives of corporations, government, not-for-profit organizations and interested residents in order to catalyze discussion around rooftop solar for condo and co-op residences. Having examined the barriers and researched the best ways of financing large solar projects, the Downtown West Multi-Unit Solar Energy Project has decided to launch a pilot project that will involve large solar installations on one condominium and one co-operative. Our aim is to work with the City of Toronto, the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, and Toronto Hydro, to help these projects move forward. Eventually, we will share the information we’ve gathered and the lessons learned with those living in all other downtown multi-unit buildings, so that it will be easier for everyone else to bring the benefits of solar energy to their buildings.

We are currently discussing whether we first need to develop a discussion paper that describes the barriers, identifies subsidy programs, examines current technology and indicates what’s needed to implement such projects. We would also look at financing options (i.e. conventional, lease, owner, property tax based, Local Improvement Charges), Reserve Fund issues, and governance issues for those in condominiums and co-operatives. By developing such a document, we would aim to provide much of the information that condo or co-op decision-making boards would need to otherwise undertake on their own.

Natural Resources Canada has a new Renewable Energy Deployment Initiative that provides a 25% rebate up to $80,000 on the capital cost of solar thermal systems for Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (ICI) buildings AND MURBs (i.e. multi-unit residential buildings) that are greater than 600 square metres, more than three storeys and have a common entrance. This is a significant subsidy for solar water heating systems, and one that Toronto MURBs would be wise to take early advantage of.

Progress is being made on finding specific buildings that are interested in exploring solar hot water and electricity generation. These specific sites would then commission solar feasibility studies.

You can learn more by attending our next meeting on Wednesday June 13th, 7:30pm at Windward Co-operative, 34 Little Norway Crescent (near the Island Airport), or by contacting either of the Project co-chairs below.

Tim Grant, (416) 960-1244, [email protected]
David Booz, (416) 806-2669, [email protected]