Community Power with Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-op

Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-op (OREC) was one of the first renewable energy co-ops in Ontario. Founded in 2010, OREC partners with Ottawa-area communities, using local roofs and land for community-owned renewable power. OREC currently operates 13 solar projects installed on school rooftops, private barns/warehouses and other facilities, with over 43,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases (CO2 equivalent) avoided to date. So far, over 500 local community members have invested more than $5 million in OREC’s projects, receiving dividend payments on their shares over 20 years.

Over the years, OREC’s and other co-ops’ largest challenge is typically securing new projects. They have to get creative in finding locations and projects to buy or build. There is a strong demand in the Ottawa area for local and responsible investment opportunities and OREC is one of the parties working towards finding new ways to offer more of these investment opportunities.

One of their largest projects to date (and the one which will be open for a guided green energy doors open tour) is the Dunrobin storage facility. The 20,000 square foot building is unique because it was custom built with solar PV panels acting as the roof. The installation is rated at 250kW with the use of 1140 solar panels, and helps to power the nearby high school and subdivision.

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Much of the clean energy transition to date has been driven by a bottom-up approach. Though relatively new to Ontario, community-level renewable power co-operatives have been quite successful in Europe, with over 50% of the renewable power in Germany being generated by co-operatives or farmers.

Community Power matters because energy generation has had issues in the past due to a lack of democratic process, a series of financial woes, and a large carbon footprint. Community Power is democratic, it’s open, and focuses on technologies with a much smaller carbon footprint. Its inclusive nature helps to spread the message that renewable energy is cleaner, safer, cheap or cheaper, durable and 100% possible. Our grids can be more resilient with the help of thousands of micro generators across the land.

OREC’s solar portfolio totals approximately 1MW of generating capacity. All projects are located within the City of Ottawa but they are looking to build new projects in other parts of Eastern Ontario as well.

All projects are financed with investments from residents of Eastern Ontario, meaning that the money comes from the region and profits are returned to the region. OREC hires local companies for engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC). Many of the projects are also built with equipment manufactured in Ontario.

Partnerships play a very important role in project development. ORECs projects can be found on schools, co-op housing, and businesses, each of which benefits financially by receiving lease payments for their roof space. Some partners also benefit from having panels prominently displayed, which sends a strong message to the community about the organizations values. Most importantly, the projects are raising awareness about the potential that renewable energy can play in our society.

The OREC will be offering a free-guided tour of their Dunrobin project for Green Energy Doors Open 2016 on September 11 at 3pm.

To learn more about the Dunrobin facility and OREC in general please visit: www.orec.ca/dunrobin