Northland Solar Portfolio
In 2010, Steve Singer, a local Kitchener-Waterloo resident/businessman had recently completed a solar micro-fit project on a building he owned. After going through the program, understanding how the program can be advantageous to businesses and realizing the benefits first hand, Steve wanted to be more involved in this green energy solution. At the time, many companies had been approached to lease their rooftops for solar projects. Steve felt that this was not the most valuable solution for businesses, and started to research developing a solar portfolio, in which business owners would own their own solar rooftop project.
In 2011, Steve approached various local business owners in Kitchener-Waterloo about taking advantage of the current FIT 2 program and installing solar on their rooftops. After conducting the preliminary studies for all the interested parties, Steve was left with three businesses who met the project requirements structurally, financially, trusted in the project approach and most importantly if not the primary reason, wanted to produce their own green energy.
With a total of $1.8 million invested, the ultimate goal was a high-quality, effective solar project. Thus, Northland Solar was formed. The portfolio consisted of Knell’s Hardware, Kitchener, Fischer Group, Waterloo and Donald Choi Home, Waterloo.
Steve had a vision in developing a solar portfolio in which members are able to work together, share information and best practices, monitor and compare results, and most importantly develop a high-quality project that is equally beneficial to all parties involved.
So what exactly did that mean for the Northland Solar Portfolio?
One project manager, with the collaborative knowledge of the business owners, financially and technically
One building contractor
Collaborative decision making
Use of the same technology and equipment for all projects
Efficient project schedule
Ability to compare data and monitoring systems
Reduced risk factors
Future group maintenance scheduling
Less overall stress, time commitment and disruptiveness to regular business operations for business owners
THE LOCAL CONNECTION
It was important to Steve that all of the participants be local – from the actual building owners to the project constructors and outside third party vendors. Not only did this help support the local economy but from a project management perspective, was a smart decision and reduced the risk significantly. Supporting locally meant that the project participants would share the same resources and be able to interact and integrate with each other easily. The project schedule was efficient as the buildings are close together and the project cost is effectively controlled as travel and mobilization time is reduced.
THE PROJECT DETAILS
The project as a whole took four years to complete. Beginning with Steve Singers initial research into large rooftop solar projects, product research and attaining member involvement.
Once Knell’s Hardware, Donald Choi Home, and Fischer were on board with the project, a structural evaluation of the participating buildings was conducted by locally hired engineering firm Walter Fedy. This process allowed the group to determine what size of project they were able to apply for, and the contract was awarded by the OPA in 2013.
The contract agreement stipulated that all projects had to be completed within 18 months to apply for commercial application without receiving a penalty. So in mid-2013, it was time to start looking for a solar construction company to build the projects starting in the Spring of 2014.
Arcadian Projects was awarded the project in November 2013 due to several factors:
Steve’s product research had led him to Fronius, a premium solar inverter manufacturer. He approached Fronius and was referred to Arcadian as a contractor who uses their product.
Arcadian had experience with both the Fronius inverters and the HB solar racking both the preferred product choices for this project.
Arcadian was able to perform both mechanically and electrically
Arcadian had good references
Has the ability to provide the maintenance on the project over the next 20 years
Northland Solar then hired another local company; ZON Engineering from Kitchener, to review the electrical design and work with Arcadian Projects and local LDC’s to ensure all electrical requirements were met. Arcadian took over all application submission requirements with the OPA and LDC’s on behalf of all the building owners, and in the spring of 2014, Arcadian Projects commenced construction of Knell’s Hardware solar project, followed by Donald Choi and Fischer.
As each project was completed, ZON Engineering was once again sourced to complete a review of the installations behalf of the building owners and provided quality control for the work of Arcadian Projects.
THE HURDLES AND EXTRA’S
All the building owners agree that their solar project went extremely well. But – as with all projects, there are always some unforeseen elements due to various factors.
Solar projects are complex and require a large volume of paperwork to be completed, particularly portfolio projects. Everything from environmental & electrical impacts, ESA inspections, connection agreements, application forms and completed project submittals. Between Steve and experience, Arcadian brings on the application and submittals portion of solar projects, the process went smoothly and helped alleviate the potential headaches for the building owners.
Fronius Inverters, though a premium product, had not been used commonly in the K-W area and needed to get approved to meet the anti-islanding code from the local LDC’s. This delayed the project a month and a half at project start.
Fischer’s building did not allow for the inverter room to be inside and needed to be constructed on the outside. Arcadian Projects built and protected the inverter room by building a parapet to deflect snow and provide shade. They installed a fence around the inverter location for security and safety.
Arcadian also supplied a custom designed mounting bracket to accommodate the junction boxes on Fischer’s roof to eliminate shading and weather damage.
Donald Choi required electrical and lighting in the designated inverter room; Arcadian projects installed new task lighting and electrical circuits.
The inverter room at Knell’s Hardware required ventilation due to the restricted space and heat produced by the inverters.
All the projects were installed to the required specifications and scope of work. They are exceeding the calculated production expectations. The systems are producing kW comparable to other systems, and there have been no maintenance issues or any others to date.
The project was on-time, within budget and met all necessary specifications.
High-quality project – Successfully completed!