On October 3rd, sustainable energy sites across Ontario and Alberta welcomed visitors for the 5th annual Green Energy Doors Open. I travelled to Mississauga to learn first hand about the ways local businesses and communities are embracing clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency.
My first stop was TD Bank’s sustainable concept branch on Creditview Road. The property is a model for branch design throughout TD, as the bank is looking to incorporate aspects of sustainable building into all of their properties. The building was designed in collaboration with Perkins+Will and Turner Construction, and together they considered everything from bifacial solar PV awning that captures light from above and below, to geothermal heat, to a modular design that drastically cuts renovation times and waste. TD also stresses the importance of creating welcoming spaces for employees and customers, adding a community garden outside, amenities such as complimentary coffee inside, and an enviable break room equipped with Energy Star appliances. Stay tuned to Our Power for a full story on TD’s environmental initiatives.
From TD, I caught a bus to Erindale GO Station, a busy commuter hub during the week but quiet this past Saturday. From the helpful GO staff, I learned that GO Transit has embraced renewable energy, and currently has solar arrays on three properties in Oakville, Ajax, and Mississauga (Erindale), with plans to expand to Burlington and Clarkson in the near future. Their Pickering station, the site of last year’s GO Transit Green Energy Doors Open event, is heated with geothermal power. The building manager took a group of us up to the rooftop to take a look at its impressive 250 kW solar array and to check out the inverter room, where the solar power is converted and delivered to the grid through a net metering system.
I had planned my day’s route via public transit, but on the tour of Erindale I met Mary-Jane and Glenn, an environmental scientist and environmental engineer respectively who were headed to the same place as I was – SolarShare’s rooftop project launch – and they were driving their brand new Nissan LEAF electric vehicle. I jumped at the chance to join them on their trip and take my first ride in an EV.
As we drove, they explained some features of the car. Being mostly city drivers, Mary-Jane and Glenn haven’t had a problem staying charged up, though with any long-distance driving they would have to consider stops to charge their vehicle. They told me that Tim Hortons is a good place to plug in, and the number of charging stations is growing. The sound the LEAF makes, apparently captured from the sounds of Japanese trains, is added to play as the car moves, programmed in as a way to alert pedestrians to its presence. Otherwise, the vehicle would be nearly silent while running. Instead of kilometres per litre of gas, current mileage is displayed in km/kWh. Since becoming owners of the LEAF, Mary-Jane and Glenn have become advocates for EVs, sharing the benefits and dispelling the myths of going electric wherever they can.
When we arrived at the OK Tires building on Abilene Drive, we were greeted with music, great food, a hands-on display courtesy of TREC Education, and a mass of excited people ready to ride in the scissor lift up to see SolarShare’s latest project. Three by three, participants donned hard hats to take a look at the new 600kW rooftop array, while on the ground people chatted about renewable energy and the benefits of becoming a SolarShare member and investor.
As I rode the GO Bus back to Toronto, I thought about how renewable energy really has arrived in the mainstream, and how people are starting to take notice. Green Energy Doors Open showcases what is happening and what is possible as we strive toward 100% renewable energy, and reminds us that we’ve come a long way and have a lot to celebrate.
If you missed out on this year’s Green Energy Doors Open, visit the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association‘s website to get updates about next year’s event!