Solar Project

VIEW OUR SOLAR PRODUCTION
CBC Article on St. Mark's Solar Installation
Air Photo of Solar Installation

Background

The decision was made in 2010 by the Parish Corporation of St Mark's to bring a proposal to Vestry to replace our roof in 2011. The roof was failing because the shingle nails were rusting out and the cedar shingles were flying out. At the same time the suggestion was made that it would be an ideal time to examine and add solar panels to the proposal, if feasible. The task was assigned to the Project Manager, Lorne Bowerman who recruited Trevor Dee, an electrical engineer, to help.   Application was made on January 6, 2011 for the 10 KW Micro-FIT program of the Ontario Power Authority. Although the proposal had not yet gone to vestry, it was felt that the wait times were so long that it was better to have applied and then not accept the contract than to add a couple of months onto the waiting time.  At Vestry 2011, the congregation approved the proposal for both the roof and solar panels.  A conditional offer for the Micro-FIT installation was given on April 27, 2011, subject to receiving an offer to connect from Hydro Ottawa, our local distribution authority.  Quotes were obtained for the new metal roof and the solar installation.  One hesitation we had was no one had installed solar panels over the metal roofs on which quotes we received.  A submission was made to the Financial Advisory Committee of the Diocese for approval to proceed on the lowest bid for both the roof and solar from Lucas Construction.  Including HST, the roof cost was about $42,000 and the solar was $85,000.  We paid for the roof and solar with funds brought back from the Consolidated Trust Fund of the Diocese of Ottawa.

The first surprise came when it appeared that our electrical service would not pass inspection.  After further discussion, it was decided to put in a new electrical 200 amp service for a cost of $25,000.  A 400 amp service was investigated but at $50,000 it was beyond our means.   We used about $8,000 from the Consolidated Trust Fund, $7,000 from bequests and $10,000 of funds raised by donations.  Getting all the approvals and permits took time.   We estimate that changing the electrical service added five months to the project.  Finally on November 16 work commenced.  It took until February 2, 2012 to complete the work.  We started generating power on February 2, 2012.

 Solar Layout

After much research, it was decided to install 52 solar panels which would generate a maximum of 9.88 kilowatts (KW).  Under the Micro-FIT program our maximum is 10KW. Other configuration with fewer panels would provide the 10KW, but for a reduced amount of time during the day. Each solar panel was equipped with an inverter which converted the direct current to alternating current.  The output from the fifty-two inverters was divided  into four output groups and a line from each output group was led to a combiner box.  A larger capacity wire took the combined power to the meter that measures the generated power. We now have two power meters, one measures the electricity used by the church and the other measures the power generated by the solar array.

As a bonus, it was decided to use two different kinds of panels to make a cross design in the solar panel array.  It was also decided to keep the solar panels away as far as practical from the higher western section of the roof to reduce the loss of power generation from the west roof’s shadow. The final arrangement was 35 panels on the east roof and 17 on the west roof.  

First Solar Panel Partial Cross Solar Cross

The generated power is fed into the electrical grid. This means that our generated power goes out to the pole at the street by the same wires that bring the power in from the street. It is not magic. Like water in a pipe, electricity flows from source to destination. While the solar panels are generating electricity during the day, the electricity flows from the church to the pole. At night, when no power is generated, the electricity flows from the pole to the church. All the power we produce we sell to Hydro and then Hydro immediately sells some of it back to us to power the church. The rest of the power we generate Hydro sells to our neighbours.

Financial

We expect to generate $10,000 worth of electricity each year.  The contract length is 20 years.  The pay back period for should be about 8.5 years, after which the income will be revenue gained from using our assets.  The expected life of the solar panels is 35 years.