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Carmanah’s Solar EPC Services changing the face of solar technology
By: Aileen Ormoc

Since the birth of Carmanah’s Solar Engineering Procurement Construction (EPC) Services group in 2001, the subsidiary has introduced innovative designs to the grid connected solar industry through its work on high profile and award winning projects with the City of Toronto as well as the Canadian Federal Governments.

Carmanah, one of the nation’s leaders in the solar industry, is known across the globe for providing customers with reliable products that are both sustainable and cost effective. The company is comprised of seven vertical groups, including Outdoor Lighting, Aviation, Obstruction, Marine, Traffic, Solar EPC Services, and Go Power!. The EPC group has commissioned over 70 successful projects with many awarded through a stringent procurement processes.

With nineteen years of experience in the solar industry, General Manager of EPC Services, Richard Wayte, has watched the company progress throughout the years.

Wayte says that Solar EPC Services was born out of an acquisition of a previous company. They initially signed on with a number of government entities to complete small, grid connected pilot projects across Canada. The projects were dedicated to educating the public on the implementation and use of distributed solar technology based energy generation.

Canada’s solar grid-tie business was effectively launched by the introduction of Ontario’s Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program (RESOP) in March 2006. RESOP failed in delivering what was intended, but the failure led to Ontario’s Premier announcing an improved initiative called the Feed-in Tariff Program (FIT) in 2009. Wayte says Carmanah saw this as a great opportunity to grow their Solar EPC business and began its focus on small commercial scale rooftop opportunities.

The FIT program is designed for projects ranging from 10 kilowatts to 10 megawatts in capacity and is managed by the Ontario Power Authority. The program includes a 20-year guaranteed electricity price, which is reviewed every two years, and is available to government, businesses and homeowners who are granted access to a Local Distribution Company distribution grid. The program’s primary goals were to create jobs and develop a skilled renewable energy industry while meeting provincial energy requirements with clean sustainable generation.

Carmanah offers their clients a wide array of services from feasibility through to commercial operation.

“Our focus is the provision of turn-key services from feasibility, design, procurement of all necessary materials, and construction of that design,” says Wayte. “We manage the entire process from the first site visit through to commercial operation, the point at which the system owner is officially connected to the distribution infrastructure and generating revenue.”

Carmanah’s Solar EPC Services portfolio consists primarily of solutions for commercial flat rooftop with a focus in the small FIT classification which includes projects anywhere between 10 kilowatts and 500 kilowatts. However, the portfolio also features systems that involve a greater integration with the host facility including Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV).

The group’s success has not gone unnoticed, receiving two awards for Photovoltaic Project of the Year from the Canadian Solar Industries Association. The first award was for the installation at the Horse Palace at the Exhibition Place in Toronto which was at the time the largest installation in the country at 100 kilowatts.

Wayte says, “This building is immediately south of the Gardiner Expressway in downtown Toronto so it is exposed to some very heavy soiling from road traffic and pollution.”

Three partners committed to funding this project including the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Better Building Partnership of the City of Toronto, and the Toronto Atmospheric Fund.

He adds, “The funding entities were primarily interested in learning the impacts of pollution on the installations in an urban environment.”

The second award given to Carmanah was for the construction of the Jean Canfield Building in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Currently housing the Ministry of Veteran Affairs, the building was a unique installation with its location approximately 800 metres from the shoreline and subject to occasional hurricane-type forces.

“We were actively involved in the base building design process to make sure that the host structure would support our proposed solar design,” says Wayte.

Wayte credits much of their success and recognition to the company’s attention to detail and their knowledge of PV system designs.

“A lot of work goes into the design detail to optimize the performance of a system,” says Wayte. “Knowledge of the nuances and idiosyncrasies of leading technologies, the impact of mechanical and electrical design on yield, and a full comprehension of the regulatory guidelines associated with the construction industry are just a few things you can only learn with experience.”

Over the years, the Solar EPC group has worked with a number of well-known Canadian companies like Northland Power of Toronto. Five of the projects with Northland Power included installations built on top of some of the country’s largest commercial retail rooftops.

But for Wayte, some of the most exciting projects were those that involved designing from the ground up.

Carmanah’s work on three elementary schools for the Niagara Catholic District School Board and the Greater Essex County District School Board, involved working with the base building design team and integrating the design of the solar systems into the buildings; a more unique and  welcome challenge for the Solar EPC team. One of the most well-known installations is the ‘solar awning’ integrated into the Dr. David Suzuki Public School in Windsor, Ontario.

“If you look at the images for the Greater Essex County District School Board’s Suzuki Elementary School you can see that the solar system is wrapped around the school,” says Wayte. “It is a unique design and was great experience for the team.”

Solar EPC Services plans to expand their services into other areas, and find representation in countries outside of North America. Carmanah has already gained international representation across the globe.

“We are principally looking at emerging markets as well as markets where Carmanah can leverage its existing success in other fields,” says Wayte.