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Another step forward to solar energy dream

Written on June 24th, 2011

After months of effort Immanuel Christian School in Oshawa has received some good news that makes its solar energy vision that much more plausible.

The school has been awarded a grant from the Community Energy Partnership Program (CEPP), an arm of the Ontario Power Authority (OPA), to cover the soft costs, including engineering, designing and permitting, of a proposed solar energy project.

Immanuel has submitted an application to the Feed-In Tariff (FIT) program of the OPA for the implementation of a solar energy source on its roof. The FIT program offers “stable prices” under long-term contracts for energy generated from
renewable sources, including solar photovoltaic.

While the school has yet to receive a conditional offer from FIT for the initiative, and the school board has agreed to wait on moving forward with the project until that happens, principal Jasper Hoogendam notes the grant will provide a sizable boost when and if the solar project takes off.

This boost, combined with a re-pricing step earlier this year, which revealed the potential for a notable reduction in costs, means the school is now looking at about $350,000 required in donations or financing to launch the project, down from the $500,000 originally proposed.

Principal Jasper Hoogendam notes the reduction fits right with where the planning committee had mentioned last fall they’d like to see the costs land.

“We had looked at it and said the thing that would make this a lot easier to deal with, in terms of balancing out the financing costs and the repayment is if we had $100,000 to jumpstart (the project),” says Hoogendam.

He adds the bonus is that the school’s in a situation of reducing costs but not having to downsize the project, so the anticipated revenue will stay the same.

Immanuel is hoping for a response from OPA on their application shortly, with the prospect of launching the project next summer, when the school is empty.

Third Way Solar, a not-for-profit supporting charities through the process of plugging into the FIT program, has been a key player in the Oshawa school’s effort, including completing a feasibility study, submitting the original application to OPA and the grant application to CEPP. Part of this work has been pro bono.

Hoogendam says the support has been key to making this happen, noting the school board would have been hard-pressed to justify the several thousand dollars for the feasibility study.

Third Way Solar president John Meiboom notes Immanuel Christian School is the first in the sector that he’s aware of to receive the grant, and he hopes it’s a precursor for others.

“I think it’s a tremendous opportunity,” says Meiboom of the solar project.

“It’s a wonderful way to demonstrate to the community at large a school’s commitment to stewardship of the environment,” he says, while supporting the school’s financial viability.