The new Nellie McClung Public School in Vaughan, Ontario includes a 338-module solar photovoltaic system. It powers the school and the grid under the Ontario Power Authority feed-in-tariff program. The general contractor for the York Region District School Board project was TORCOM Construction Inc., Enermodal Engineering provided the electrical design and Evergreen Power Ltd. was the supplier and installer of the photovoltaic equipment.
Ontario schools are finding new ways to help supplement their budgets, including the use of roof-mounted solar panels designed to take advantage of Ontario’s Clean Energy Act and Feed-In Tariff program for renewable power. A recent project involves the installation of a photovoltaic system on top of the York Region District School Board’s new Nellie McClung Public School in Vaughan.
Enermodal Engineering provided the electrical design and managed the implementation of the 338-module system. Evergreen Power Ltd. was the supplier and installer of the photovoltaic equipment, under sub-contract to TORCOM Construction Inc., a specialist in school construction and renovation. The general contractor has completed more than 45 school projects in the GTA over its 25-year-history.
“This is our first school project designed specifically for rooftop photovoltaic panels,” says Artin Chitilian, president of TORCOM Construction. “Once the system is operational, it will represent a great financial return for the school board.”
The solar panels were installed on top of the two-storey building in June with support from the Ontario Ministry of Education’s Renewable Energy Funding for Schools Initiative. Once connected to the power grid, the panels will produce 85 MWh of power per year, with an annual payback of about $61,000 per year to the school board in a 20-year fixed rate contract with the Ontario Power Authority.
The school will use some of the electricity it generates and students will incorporate performance and environmental data from the system into their class curriculum when the school opens in September.
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“The roof was prepared with special steel racking and then the photovoltaic units were lifted into place using cranes,” says Chitilian. The framing was designed by YDY Engineering, using a system that eliminates the need for ballasting by tying the module racking directly into the building’s structure.
“The only major difference on the roof itself is that we used more expensive white aggregate to help reflect the rays of the sun,” says Chitilian.
It’s the second such project for TORCOM. The first was a retrofit project in York Region’s Sutton Public School in Sutton.
“They decided to add the solar panels after the fact,” says Chitilian. “Since the school roof wasn’t designed to carry the weight of the panels, we had to reinforce the roof structure with added beams and supports to make provision for the panels. But the added construction costs will be offset by the sale of the power.”
Chitilian says he hopes such educational projects are part of a wave of the future.
“As long as the funding and encouragement are there, I think the school boards will continue to pursue clean power in new and retrofit construction,” he says.