Solar technology in Canada’s facilities sector

Renewable innovation of solar is a sustainable and untapped revenue source
Monday, November 15, 2021
By Danial Hadizadeh

There is no debate around the ongoing climate crisis and the need for renewable infrastructure and innovation, not only in Canada, but globally. Extreme power outages brought on by damaging weather events can ultimately be avoided if micro-grid solutions are implemented.

The 2021 Texas power crisis that occurred in February is a prime example of the effects a widespread outage can have, when 4.5 million homes and businesses were left without power for a dreadfully long period. At $195 billion in damages this was Texas’ costliest disaster in history, all of which could have been avoided if the appropriate self-sufficient systems were in place.

The issue at hand

For high-rise residential, commercial buildings and large public facilities, energy is the greatest cost. Building owners are spending between $55,000 to $75,000 per month on energy and utilities alone, not including the supplemental costs for each corresponding tenant.

Larger buildings are also heavy emitters due to the energy used to regulate temperature. In Canada, about 82 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions come from energy, with residential, commercial and industrial buildings accounting for 40 per cent of annual greenhouse gas emissions globally.

Traditional hurdles to mass adoption

Canadians are too dependent on fossil fuels, not only making this non-renewable resource cheaper to access, but a major culprit of climate change. At the end of 2020, the annual Energy Futures report by The Canada Energy Regulator (CER) stated that though the government is enacting laws to curb emissions, oil and gas could still make up two-thirds of Canada’s energy sources in the next three decades.

Though solar energy has been utilized for some time, adoption has been hampered by poor aesthetics, high price tags and slow production. Even still, solar only accounts for 1.5 per cent of Canada’s energy capacity though there are over 800 solar installers in the country.

Opportunity and responsibility

Canada’s recent federal budget promises a climate plan with $17.8 billion in resources, including a transition towards more renewable energy sources in attempts to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This is a great step forward, but there are proven systems and solutions available in Canada, the government only needs to expedite the process.

For example, the US provides an Investment Tax Credit (ITC) which allows most firms to get 30 per cent of their investment in renewable technology back, an incentive that would only encourage the adoption and installation of more solar technology within the building sector in Canada.

As we continue to understand the sensitivity of climate change, the building sector has an opportunity to play an important role. Canada must rethink how to utilize new and existing building stock to help the country in reaching its ambitious goal to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Innovation of BIPV

Solar building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) systems are rapidly becoming an economical source to harness renewable energy from the sun. This innovative technology allows architects and facility designers to adhere to a building’s design while supporting the growing demand for developers and municipal governments to make buildings more sustainable.

Photovoltaic materials are incredibly malleable and are able to conform to any design. A plethora of patterns and textures can be replicated on the facing of BIPV, creating the illusion of man-made materials such as cement and porcelain, to natural finishes such as marble and wood. The seamless integration of this technology and freedom of design offers architects, engineers, building owners and investors the opportunity to embrace and profit from solar energy without compromising beauty or costs.

Climate and revenue advantage

Solar products provide energy directly to the building, which reduces reliance on electricity from the high-carbon grid. Over 30 years, 10,000 square feet of solar cladding can produce 4,320,000 kWh of energy, offsetting 3,063 metric tonnes of CO2. This equates to powering 15 homes, removing 660 cars off the roads or planting 2,000,000 trees.

Over time, the building owners who have invested in this type of technology system will begin to produce a surplus of energy (based on sunlight access), eventually leading to the opportunity to earn revenue.

A 10,000-square-foot building can generate approximately $850,000 in revenue, which is equivalent to a 350 per cent return on investment. Cladding systems also have a long warranty, with the technology producing 80 per cent of the energy when it was first installed 30 years later.

A green future

With Canada’s ambitious net-zero goal by 2050, the building sector has a responsibility and the opportunity to lead this shift by simply adopting more sustainable solar technology. Suitable for commercial buildings, agricultural facilities and government structures, solar cladding technology is a critical innovation in helping a structure’s skin become micro power plants. There are endless possibilities now and in the future for how we can promote greener cities that will provide clean, green, locally-produced electricity that is better for us, our country and our planet.

Danial Hadizadeh is the CEO of Mitrex, a leading solar technology manufacturer in Canada.

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