““I’ve got a few acres in the country near Torronto, behind my house. Since I’m a contractor, not a farmer, I lease the land to a local guy who grows crops and grazes his animals,” the celebrity home contractor told Canwest. “The land could lie fallow – which is not necessarily a bad thing – or it could be put to use. Which do you think is the better idea?
There are millions of square feet of roofs in the country lying fallow, in a manner of speaking. What if that space was turned over to solar farmers who, just like the farmer leasing the field, are able to lease solar panels to the householder to put those roofs to good use?
“Ideally, we’d like to move away from centralized production for power. Part of the cost of energy production is not just generating it, through hydro or coal, but getting it out to the millions of homeowners who need it. If we can reduce distribution costs, we’ll increase our energy efficiency. Moving to local micro-generation is more sustainable and has a significant environmental impact. We take the pressure off the existing grid and reduce emissions.Several companies, such as Enmax Energy in Alberta and Pure Energies in Ontario, are creating opportunities for homeowners to lease out their rooftops for solar panels. The panels are paid for by the energy provider, at little or no cost to the homeowner. The power that’s “harvested” from the solar panels gets fed back to the grid. That makes sense to me.
Converting to solar power is really attractive to people. Talk to anyone, and they get it. They love the idea of getting off the grid and going green. But the up-front cost of installing solar panels is high. The payback is long – and most people just don’t have the money, or the long-term commitment, to stay in the house, to make the leap to solar. With current solar-panel technology, the payback can be 16 to 20 years. They aren’t that efficient yet. But as efficiency increases, the payback will be shorter.
But if that up-front installation cost is taken out of the equation, and people could look at saving money on their electric bills and helping reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, it’s a no-brainer. Of course, people would get on board; it’s win-win.
And what if you not only saved money, but switching to solar made you money? You could get paid back with a rebate, if your energy use is less than what you gather.
The specific lease terms are different for each provider, but, in essence, it works like this: Since you are leasing the equipment, the cost of installing, maintaining and monitoring the system are covered by the monthly lease fee. Whatever electricity you generate on your roof gets fed into the grid. What’s not used gets you a rebate on your electric bill. If you use more than you generate, you pay a bill. At the end of the lease arrangement, you can extend it or have the panels removed. Or you can pay a fee, keep them, and install a battery back-up system to keep you off the grid.
Not only will individual homeowners save money, we’ll all benefit from the reduced need for power from the grid. And as more and more people get on board, fewer power plants will need to be built to service our growing population.
Leasing your rooftop for solar-power generation isn’t going to eliminate your utility bill. But for little up-front cost, it will reduce both that monthly bill and your impact on the environment. If your home is located in an area with enough solar days, and your roof isn’t heavily shaded with trees, you should look into leasing your roof. It’s not as if you’re doing anything with it. Just like the farmer who leases my field – put that acreage to good use.
Catch Mike in his brand-new series, Holmes Inspection, airing Thursdays at 8 p.m. on HGTV. For more information, visit hgtv.ca.
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