As more businesses seek ways to meet their sustainability goals, commercial property developers in Canada are recognizing rooftop solar as an excellent draw for new tenants.
That’s the case with the C$825-million James Snow Business Park, now under construction in Milton, Ontario, with rooftop solar panels “spanning the equivalent of seven football fields,” reports the Globe and Mail.
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The 3.3-million-square-foot industrial park designed by Oxford Properties “puts sustainability at its core, including LED high bay lighting fixtures, electric vehicle charging stalls, and parks and connections to local walking trails.”
The development “highlights growing interest by property owners in solar power as a financially feasible option to address rising electricity costs, help reduce the carbon footprint of buildings—a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions—and attract preferred tenants,” the Globe adds.
Oxford’s head of industrial, Jeff Miller, confirmed that the emphasis on solar was a canny business move as tenants focus more on their own environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals.
“We see this as a differentiator,” he said. “There is not a lot of solar on buildings in the Toronto market.”
And yet solar panels remain scarce in industrial parks, despite declining installation costs, rising electricity prices, and the federal carbon price.
“The lack of affordable and efficient storage technology—that is a big headwind,” explained Tonya Lagrasta, head of ESG for Colliers Real Estate Management Services. “Existing electricity grids might not be able to handle the input of solar energy [from the parks], which could create some technical challenges.”
As well, many potential clients have yet to realize that solar panels have an average life expectancy of 25 years.
Bonnie Crews, director of sustainability and portfolio management at Toronto-based developer Dream Industrial REIT, echoed Miller’s belief that offering rooftop solar is a good business move.
“It makes economic sense, it enables us to build stronger relations with tenants, and gives us a competitive edge,” said Crews, adding that rooftop solar delivers electricity to tenants at lower, less volatile prices than fossil fuels.
Growing concern about the legitimacy of carbon offsets is one more catalyst for property developers who offer solar.
Previously relying on carbon offsets to reach its emissions target, Burlington, Ontario-based Vicwest Building Products began looking in-house in 2020 and realized that solar could be part of the solution. “Rather than investing in carbon offsets, we put the money into an opportunity that will solve the problem, not just mask it,” said operations vice-president Bernard Lewis.
“By 2030, the company aims to have 60% of its energy requirements powered by direct renewable energy, generated from rooftop solar and Hydro-Québec’s hydroelectric grid.” the Globe writes.