Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Funding Ottawa's transit plans, part seven: Energy generation

Upon hearing the news that the city, after successfully installing rooftop solar panels on City Hall and an OC Transpo garage to take advantage of premiums paid for green energy, is planning on expanding their solar energy generation capacity with a further 20 buildings, I wondered something: Why not expand it even further, using the massive amounts of real estate occupied by OC Transpo, to fund the city's transit system--or even construction of the multi-billion dollar transit plan?

Back in November, I wrote about a project by the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority to install wind-energy generator stations in order to power their transit stations, and posited that Ottawa could definitely benefit from doing it here--and as a bonus, any surplus energy generated could (hypthetically) be fed back into the grid, an alternative way of generating income for OC Transpo. If it's working for the city on other buildings, and it's working for transit utilities in other cities, there's little reason to believe it won't work here.

Immediately, I can think of three possible problems with OC Transpo trying it out: First is the cost; Solar panels, or tools to harness energy from other renewable sources, are not cheap. They can take a decade or more to break even, even if you can find the capital to install them in the first place, and capital is something the city's looking for when funding the current transit plan. If a corporation can be found to embark on a public-private partnership, or a higher level of government (provincial or federal) to fund the project, it would be manageable, but neither are a sure thing to find.

Secondly, given that OC Transpo is owned by the city, there's always the possibility that income from these stations would be siphoned off into the general budget rather than invested into the transit system. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing (it would give the city more money to invest into the transit system, although it could also be redirected to other things, like snow removal), but it wouldn't serve the direct purpose of funding transit or transit plans.

And finally, the premiums currently paid by the province for green energy aren't guaranteed to continue indefinitely. Those premiums are a big reason why the city's experiments in alternative energy have worked out well, but they could realistically be ended as early as the next provincial election.

As with anything, there are hurdles to be overcome, but if it hasn't been investigated previously, it's certainly something worth looking in to.


Anonymous said...

The great thing is that developments in the industry only contributed to lowering solar panels cost. This endeavor for Ottawa's transit system seems to be feasible.

Natalie Perkins said...

That is a magnificent! The fact that people realized that the power of the sun can produce us enough energy to power a house is really great. Now I think they should apply this kind of strategies on the house hold.

solar tube