See the light and lease out your roof

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - MIKE HOLMES

I’VE got a few acres in the coun­try, be­hind my house. Since I’m a con­trac­tor, not a farmer, I lease the land to a lo­cal guy who grows crops and grazes his an­i­mals. The land could lie fal­low — which is not nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing — or it could be put to use. Which do you think is the bet­ter idea?

There are mil­lions of square feet of roofs in the coun­try-ly­ing fal­low, in a man­ner of speak­ing. What if that space was turned over to so­lar farm­ers who, just like the farmer leas­ing the field, are able to put those roofs to good use?

Sev­eral com­pa­nies, such as En­max En­ergy in Al­berta and Pure En­er­gies in On­tario, are cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for home­own­ers to lease out their rooftops for so­lar pan­els. The pan­els are paid for by the en­ergy provider, at lit­tle or no cost to the home­owner. The power that’s ‘har­vested’ from the so­lar pan­els gets fed back to the grid. That makes sense to me.

Con­vert­ing to so­lar power is re­ally at­trac­tive to peo­ple. Talk to any­one and they get it. They love the idea of get­ting off the grid and go­ing green. But the up-front cost of in­stalling so­lar pan­els is high. The pay­back is long — and most peo­ple just don’t have the money, or the long-term com­mit­ment, to stay in the house to make the leap to so­lar. With cur­rent so­lar-panel technology, the pay­back can be 16 to 20 years. They aren’t that ef­fi­cient yet. But as ef­fi­ciency in­creases, the pay­back will be shorter.

But if that up-front in­stal­la­tion cost is taken out of the equa­tion, and peo­ple could look at sav­ing money on their elec­tric bills and help­ing re­duce green­house-gas emis­sions, it’s a no-brainer. Of course, peo­ple would get on board; it’s win-win.

And what if you not only saved money, but switch­ing to so­lar made you money? You could get paid back with a re­bate if your en­ergy use is less than what you gather.

The spe­cific lease terms are dif­fer­ent for each provider but, in essence, it works like this: Since you are leas­ing the equip­ment, the cost of in­stalling the sys­tem, its main­te­nance and mon­i­tor­ing is cov­ered by the monthly lease fee. What­ever elec­tric­ity you gen­er­ate on your roof gets fed into the grid. What’s not used gets you a re­bate on your elec­tric bill. If you use more than you gen­er­ate, you pay a bill. At the end of the lease ar­range­ment, you can ex­tend it or have the pan­els re­moved. Or you can pay a fee, keep them, and in­stall a bat­tery back-up sys­tem to keep you off the grid.

Not only will in­di­vid­ual home­own­ers save money, we’ll all ben­e­fit from the re­duced need for power from the grid. And as more and more peo­ple get on board, fewer power plants will need to be built to ser­vice our grow­ing pop­u­la­tion.

Ide­ally, we’d like to move away from cen­tral­ized pro­duc­tion for power. Part of the cost of en­ergy pro­duc­tion is not just gen­er­at­ing it, through hy­dro or coal, but in get­ting it out to the mil­lions of home­own­ers who need it. If we can re­duce dis­tri­bu­tion costs, we’ll in­crease our en­ergy ef­fi­ciency. Mov­ing to lo­cal mi­cro-gen­er­a­tion is more sus­tain­able and has a sig­nif­i­cant en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact. We take the pres­sure off the ex­ist­ing grid and re­duce emis­sions.

Leas­ing your rooftop for so­lar-power gen­er­a­tion isn’t go­ing to elim­i­nate your util­ity bill. But for lit­tle up-front cost, it will re­duce both that monthly bill and your im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment. If your home is lo­cated in an area with enough so­lar days, and your roof isn’t heav­ily shaded with trees, you should look into leas­ing your roof. It’s not as if you’re do­ing any­thing with it. Just like the farmer who leases my field — put that acreage to good use.

— Canwest News Ser­vice

So­lar gen­er­a­tion lets you con­nect to the elec­tri­cal grid with a two-way con­nec­tion:

gen­er­ate your own power and sell what you don’t use to the util­ity.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.