Brant OKs solar panel deal

PARIS - Brant County and a local energy co-operative are going into a business venture together that will install solar panel projects on the rooftops of two large public buildings.

After some debate Monday, council approved in a special meeting a recommendation to sign a 20-year agreement in which the county and Sustainability Brant Community Energy Co-operative Inc. construct rooftop solar panels on the Brant Sports Complex and the South Dumfries Community Centre in St. George.

A 250-kW project will be built on the sports complex and a 100-kW project will be installed at the community centre.

The county will hold 70% of the equity in the projects, while the co-op will hold 30%.

The total budget for the Brant Sports Complex project is set at $634,725, and the budget for the South Dumfries Community Centre will be $273,000.

The county's stake will be managed through the new Brant Municipal Enterprises

Both projects were approved by the Ontario Power Authority through the Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) program.

The co-op is owned and operated by a group of individual investors.

Michael Bradley, the county's general manager of corporate services, told council that the projects have the ability to generate an annual return on investment that exceeds 7% over the 20-year period.

"These installation may provide cash flows for many years beyond their current 20-year financing period," Bradley said.

"These projects have an as yet undetermined life span as solar installation can remain productive for several decades."

After the agreement expires, Bradley suggested the county and the co-op have an option of using the power generated by the projects to offset the arena's energy use and selling the surplus of the power generated by the projects.

"Given the strong potential return on investment from these assets, this would be an excellent use for a portion of these proceeds if they materialize," he said.

The county has advanced several applications under the FIT program that use municipal facilities. Council was told that only 20% of the applications submitted to the program were approved in this round of the FIT program. It was fortuitous for Brant to win approval of two projects.

Brant Mayor Ron Eddy lauded the agreement as an example of the county operating in partnership on community-based investment. He said the co-op's 30% stake will allow the county to keep down its capital debt while improving assets and lowering operating costs.

"We have considerable capital debt and projects like these will help us in not adding to it," he said.

"The co-op has 80 members, all living in the community, who want to invest. What they want to do can also serve as a good model for future investment."

For the co-op, the agreement is a milestone that is more than a year in the making.

They gathered members in community meetings. Meanwhile, the county went through the process of setting up Brant Municipal Enterprises and merging the former Brant County Services Inc. and a subsidiary department, Brant Renewable Energy, into it.