CED Co-op partners with businesses of all shapes and sizes to install solar systems that generate clean, green energy for Ontario, while delivering financial returns for our members. Early on in the FIT program we partnered with the Township of Wellesley to help them install four solar arrays on two arenas, a community centre, and their office.
Rik Louwagie is CAO of the Township of Wellesley. He shared with us why the Township of Wellesley chose to install solar power, and why they believe that solar is a smart decision for a municipality.
Rik, what got the Township of Wellesley interested in solar power?
Back in 2012, the Township received municipal consent forms from a solar developer. That got us thinking that maybe solar had some potential for our township. In 2013 we started seriously looking into it. We wanted to do something using green energy – that was the biggest driver behind it – and hopefully generate a little bit of revenue at the same time.
Wind turbines were not an option at all. Public outcry about wind projects has been terrible so we didn’t consider wind.
As we looked into solar more, we started weighing options such as purchasing a system which we would operate on our own, or proceeding with a co-op.
The reason we went with a co-op was because there was no cash outlay for the township. Being a small municipality we don’t have the funds available that some of the big municipalities have. Our budgets are tight and increases don’t go very far, so we have to be wise about our spending.
We did have a number of good facilities around that we though were suitable for rooftop. We got in touch with Vigor Clean Tech as FIT 3.0 was coming out and they connected us with CED Co-op.
There are lots of environmental options besides solar and wind. What drove you to power generation through solar?
Carbon footprint was a big one. The government has been pushing carbon footprint reduction. This was a way that the township could show leadership. We were looking at visible initiatives that we could promote to our residents.
We really liked the idea of utilizing existing infrastructure by putting solar on rooftops instead of taking up good, productive farmland like some of the solar installations you see. We’re all about preserving agricultural land, so we didn’t want to see solar panels on farmland here.
It was about promoting to our residents that we were trying to be a leader, show that you could do this without a major cash outlay, generate a little revenue, and reduce the carbon footprint for the township.
How did you select the sites you thought would work for solar?
The two arenas we knew right away, given that they were nice big buildings with a ton of space on the rooftop. It was in consultation that we came up with the two additional sites (the Township Office and Linwood Community Centre) where we could feasibly get a large enough assembly on the roof.
You said things were kick started when the township was approached – was this initiative township driven, or did residents push you to take action?
It was definitely township driven. Initially there was no push from the residents, but our council jumped on the idea. They were very much in favour of the green energy component, and pleased that by proceeding with a co-op there was no cash outlay. The revenue we’re getting is a bonus. It isn’t a ton of money, but it’s something we can show to the residents that there’s a second reason we’re doing this. So it was well received by our council, it was a unanimous decision.
I love that double bottom line – when not only can you make a positive environmental impact, you can generate profits as well. It’s what we promote to investors all the time.
What has feedback from residents been like, now that the project is complete?
Quite good. With any project the negative reactions are typically the quickest and loudest, but we heard no bad reactions at all.
We did get positive feedback from residents. They were glad we were doing our part for the environment.
So there was absolutely zero negative feedback on this. In municipal government that’s a really good thing!
That’s impressive! Bravo to the residents of Wellesley for their support of green energy!
Are there other energy efficiency or environmental initiatives the Township of Wellesley is tackling?
We are looking at projects that are financially feasible – doing the things we can without an exorbitant amount of money. This includes switching the arenas, office, community centres, and streetlights to LED lighting, upgrading furnaces, compressors, etc. to improve efficiency, and using geothermal in the office.
What would you tell another business or municipality about your experience with solar power?
Definitely for a small municipality I would recommend the co-op approach. The cash outlay is too great to absorb.
It’s really a positive experience and a benefit to the municipality and residents. Just one more step we can take to show our leadership in making the world a better place.
Interested in learning more about this project? Visit our projects pages for the Wellesley Township Office, Linwood Community Centre, Wellesley Arena, and St. Clements Arena. You can view photos of the projects and see live just how much energy Wellesley Township is producing.