Ex is Aiming to be Energy Self-Sufficient

$1-Million pilot project: solar power system to be installed at Horse Palace

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Exhibition Place is undertaking a $1-million project to make it energy self-sufficient within four years -- and an exporter of power soon afterward.

An Exhibition Place pilot project will install a solar power system on the roof of the Horse Palace by May.

The idea is to follow that with environmentally friendly energy for all 192 acres of the Exhibition grounds by 2010.

"We are going to study this project," said Dianne Young, chief executive of Exhibition Place. "There will be a report at the end of this project to see how much energy it will produce. With that information, we will be able to design a two-megawatt project."

The pilot project is a 100-kilowatt solar power (or photovoltaic) system that will occupy 15,000 square feet on the Horse Palace roof, which is ideally suited to the technology, according to Ms. Young, because it is flat, faces south and is unobstructed. The building's heritage status means it cannot be changed.

The manager from the project's contractor, Richard Wayte of Carmanah Technologies, said no additional structural elements are needed to support the photovoltaic system because of the building's rugged, old-world engineering.

Carmanah won the bid for the project at about $1-million. The company has completed installations in the United States as large as 300 kilowatts, but this project is three times the size of any other photovoltaic system operating in Canada.

Mr. Wayte recently received approval for what he believes is the final design, which must now pass legal hurdles before installation can begin.

The pilot project is scheduled to be in place and operational by mid-May.

Long-range plans involve Exhibition Place creating a surplus of energy that can be exported to other sites across Toronto using the photovoltaic system and other alternative energy sources such as wind power.

Exhibition Place and Carmanah will collaborate on a series of educational tools that will show the public the progress of the power system.

Mr. Wayte said there will be four cameras shooting the system that will feed into a Web site, which will also show a wide range of environmental data.

Visitors to Exhibition Place will be able to see a display of the information provided by the Web site -- including how many kilowatts are being produced in real time -- potentially in the lobby of the Horse Palace or in the National Trade Centre

The size of the photovoltaic system will make bringing visitors up to the roof unsafe.

"The educational aspect is something we're very interested in driving as helping develop the solar industry in Canada," said Michael Cannon, vice-president of powers systems at Carmanah.

Asked whether Exhibition Place's goal of becoming a self-sufficient, sustainable source of green energy by 2010 is realistic, Mr. Wayte said it is "entirely feasible."

"There's no question about that. If photovoltaic is one of the major components, there is enough roof space spread across the various structures to do a system that will work to meet that goal," he said.

"It won't just be one technology on its own. That's the model community, really. So many of the technologies work so well together. You may have a really windy day, but not such great sun or vice versa. They really augment each other well."

"It adds another purpose to a heritage building," said Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone and chairman of Exhibition Place's board of governors.

"A lot of them become shells that cannot be brought back to life, but this will do that," he said.