Local company takes aim at global warming with award-winning solar installation



 An array of 2,600 solar panels point to the sun from this specially-engineered rack on the roof of the Metropolitan Tea Company in south Etobicoke. The installation earned the company a Toronto Board of Trade Sustainability Award.


Perched high on the roof of an unobtrusive building on Butterick Road in south Etobicoke, a space-age-looking platform cradles one of the largest solar panel installations in the city. With a generating capacity of 500-kilowatts, it was built for the Metropolitan Tea Company and received strong project support from the local utility, Toronto Hydro. It may be just the inspiration you need to start thinking about installing a solar panel at your home or business.

“After moving to this building, we realized that with four times the square footage of our previous location, we needed to manage our electricity and other utility costs,” said Gerry Vandergrift, President, Metropolitan Tea Company. “As a company, we’re also very mindful of our sustainability, so these were the two motivating factors behind our decision to install a solar array.”

In March, 2011, Mr. Vandergrift contacted Toronto Hydro to explain his plans. The utility quickly assigned an energetic and knowledgeable team to conduct an impact assessment aimed at identifying any service upgrades – inside and out – that, for safety reasons, would need to be completed before connecting the new solar array to the city’s electricity grid. Once construction was completed – an enormous rooftop infrastructure effectively shifts the weight of the solar array from the building’s roof to its foundation -- Toronto Hydro’s Feed-In Tariff (FIT) team returned to the site to finalize all metering and connections. In July, 2012, right on schedule, the 2,600 panels generated their first kilowatt.

“The utility worked seamlessly with Northgrid Solar, our construction partner, and RBC Bank to keep the project on our aggressive timeline. It’s gratifying to know that on sunny days, our solar project helps to power many of the factories on this street,” said Mr. Vandergrift.

Under the FIT program, residents and businesses in Ontario can generate renewable energy from solar, wind, hydro and bioenergy sources, and sell it back to the grid for a guaranteed price.  Since 2010, Toronto Hydro has worked with more than 400 Toronto homes and small businesses, and 65 commercial projects, to connect safely to the grid. The utility assesses customers’ proposed generation requirements, schedules the work, installs the proper metering and then facilitates the payment agreement with the Ontario Power Authority, all on behalf of the customer.

More information about the Ontario Power Authority’s FIT or microFIT programs.