Student houses get solar panels

Nine student houses, including the one above, have had solar panels installed on their roofs.
Nine student houses, including the one above, have had solar panels installed on their roofs.

The Student Ghetto is getting greener. Over the past year, nine student houses have had solar electric panel systems installed on their roofs. Six of these were just recently completed.

Landlord Tom Adair owns the six houses that had solar panels installed.

“There’s two reasons why I did this — it was partly financial because I’m hoping to secure a good return on my investment and the other part is that it’s good for the environment,” Adair said.

After investing $300,000 to install the solar panels, Adair is now in the process of signing documents to submit to the Ontario Power Authority, which distributes contracts for the Ontario Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) program. The FIT program, which began in 2009, gives approved investors a 20-year contract with a guaranteed price per kilowatt-hour (kWh) that their green energy generates.

It’s North America’s first guaranteed pricing structure for renewable energy production.

The current prices for rooftop solar panel systems range from 54.9 cents/kWh for a smaller system to 48.7 cents/kWh for a large system. These prices are reviewed every two years to account for inflation and new technologies.

Adair said the solar panels won’t affect his tenants or the condition of the house.

“It shouldn’t have any positive or negative impacts on the students … the panels feed the grid, not the house,” Adair said. “I would hope students support it, I see [the solar panels] as a sign of progress.”

The installation takes approximately three days and Adair said the panels won’t need much maintenance.

Local company Renewable Energy has been installing the solar panel systems in Kingston.

Co-owner Brad Leonard said Kingston Hydro Corporation buys the electricity generated from the panels at about eight times the selling rate.

“Most people will receive anywhere from a 10 to 12 per cent return on their investment,” Leonard, ArtSci ’95, said. “There’s a high return right now so people will be interested, but it will drop.”

Leonard said the size of the solar panel system directly depends on the size and direction of the roof. North sides of roofs aren’t suitable for solar panels because they don’t generate enough sunlight.

“If we can put up anywhere between 44 and 48 panels it will displace the energy that the house uses,” Leonard said. “We usually look for a south-facing roof because those are the most economically viable.”

Renewable Energy began selling solar panels in 1993, and as the technology has evolved, Leonard said sales have increased.

“Back then nobody had heard of solar panels,” he said. “Now people are getting into it from an economic standpoint.”

Leonard said he hopes to eventually see solar panels on one in five roofs.

“We’re green-ifying the Ghetto.”

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