News / Ottawa

School rooftop solar panels generating revenue for solar companies, school board

Students at Mary Honeywell Elementary School were roaring during their Tuesday morning assembly, as Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli revealed just how much money the school is raising with their rooftop solar panels.

The school –  and 37 others in the city — will help  the Ottawa Carleton District School Board  earn a total of $7 million over the next 20 years  from leasing its school rooftops to Potentia Solar Inc.

The company, which is installing solar cells on the schools has already raked in  $648,000 in revenue since the program began in 2011.

Chiarelli said the school rooftop projects are another sign that the renewable energy sector is “thriving.”

“The cost of wind turbines and solar facilities has come down dramatically,” he said, following a presentation at the Nepean school. “We need clean electricity for climate change related issues, that is why we got rid of coal and to have a healthier society.”

The close to 700 solar panels installed on Mary Honeywell don’t give the school a break on heating costs, but the school board does make $14,400 every year on renting out the roof – and over 20 years, the 37 schools will profit a whopping $7 million combined.

But apart from the economic boost the solar panels boast is the learning experience kids at the school get that makes the project a game-changer.

The students may not understand kilowatt-hours or how the unused power generated by the school is sold back to the Ontario power grid for a profit, but principal Kim Power said teachers and staff at the school has been working to simplify the technology so they can relate to it.

“I think it’s great to have that connection for the kids to be connected to a great environmental project like this,” said Power, adding that the school is now starting to gear learning towards sustainable energy with a focus on sustainable energy in science class.

“When they can look at the website and see what that power could be equaled to in other terms, like how far could a car drive, how much human food fuel is that or how much wood would you have to burn to produce that much energy? I think they get a feeling of what the benefits are.”

When the students learned that the power generated off the roof could power 500 computers for a whole year, the entire room erupted in “whoa’s” and “that’s so cool.”

French Catholic School Board to install solar panels at two new schools

The profits, both for the school board and the solar company, has caught the attention of the French Catholic School Board as well, as the board is now joining the Ottawa Renewable Energy Coop to launch two new solar panel projects on two secondary schools in Ottawa.

The first will be installed on the roof of École secondaire catholique Franco-Cité that will generate 244,000 kilowatt-hours and $1.8 million in income for the Board over the 20-year life of the project.

The second will be installed at Collège catholique Franco-Ouest and will produce 140,000 kilowatt-hours of green energy with $1 million of profit going to the French Catholic School Board.

The students will benefit from the added educational value through learning about renewable energy, since the solar panels will be a topic of analysis and discussion in the classroom,” said Bernard Roy, Director of Education of the CECCE.

“As a result, we will be raising a generation of environmentally responsible citizens who will be able to contribute actively to building a fairer, greener, more united world.”

The two new school solar energy projects come in addition to the ten other schools connected to the Ontario power grid.

More on