Going Greener: Solar Energy

29 November 2010

Trinity has taken another exciting leap toward becoming a leader in renewable energy.

Completing a project that had been in the works for the past three years, the College recently installed solar panels on the roof of the Larkin Building to capture energy from the sun and turn it into electricity.

The solar panels will help the College reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions, and they follow several other projects that reveal Trinity’s commitment to sustainability. Last year, the finishing touches were done on a rooftop garden on St. Hilda’s College residence and Provost Andy Orchard signed the University and College Presidents’ Climate Change Statement of Action. Earlier this year, Trinity installed two successful urban beehives on top of Henderson Tower.

Besides contributing to the production of greener energy, the solar panels offer an additional bonus: after debt servicing and operating costs, they will generate annual excess revenue which will be used for student financial aid. The 252 panels produce enough power for seven to eight average Toronto homes. Under Ontario’s feed-in tariff (FIT) program, the power will be sold to the Ontario Power Authority through Toronto Hydro. The FIT pays producers of renewable energy high prices to feed power into the electrical grid. 

The solar-panel project was initiated in 2007 when the student body allocated $250,000 in student capital levies for a solar panel project that would put Trinity ahead of the curve in its use of green energy. Supported by the student donation and an interest-free loan of $262,000 from the City of Toronto, the newly installed panels will allow the College to produce enough power to pay back the loan over 12 years and channel the net revenue into additional student bursaries.

David Oxtoby ’83, CEO of CarbonFree Technology Inc., was the prime consultant on the project, working closely with Geoff Seaborn, Trinity’s bursar, and Tim Connelly, the director of facility services.

“CarbonFree was thrilled to help Trinity take a leadership position in the use of solar power on campus. The system is a visible reminder of the College’s commitment to seek more sustainable ways to operate,” Oxtoby says.

The panels were sourced through German company Conergy Group, and are supported by steel racks made by Orillia, Ontario-based Steel Tree Structures.  The inverter – the critical piece of equipment that converts the solar-generated electricity into power that can feed in to the grid – was obtained from Satcon, another Ontario company. The project installation was planned and carried out by Toronto-based RESCo Energy Inc.

By the Numbers

252 - The number of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels recently installed on the roof of the Larkin Building at Trinity College

57 – The kilowatt (Kw) strength of Trinity’s solar PV rooftop system

67,000 – The number of Kilowatt hours per year (kwk) of energy the solar panels will produce

11 - The number of racks in place to support the panels

45 – The length, in feet, of each rack