Privately-Owned Canadian Distributor Going Solar Hydro

KITCHENER, ON (January 28, 2011 - The Record)—Flanagan Foodservice, a privately owned food distributor that sells food to thousands of restaurants and food-service operations in Ontario, has invested $1.7 million to build a 250-kilowatt solar system consisting of 1,300 solar panels that cover about 100,000 square feet of the roof at its Sasaga Drive facility in Kitchener.

When the system is turned on at the end of February, it will start feeding the hydro grid and make money under the province’s feed-in-tariff (FIT) program for projects above 10 kilowatts in size. The program pays solar producers to generate green energy under 20-year contract agreements.

Rick Flanagan, one of four Flanagan brothers who run the company started by their father Joe in 1977, says the contract should have a payback of about seven years, after which the investment will generate money for the business.

“It is a different type of economic decision,” he says. “Typically, when a privately owned company like ours is doing an investment, we are looking at a three-year payback. But when it comes to environmental projects, our company’s management and board has been pretty good about extending the payback.”

The Flanagan installation is one of the biggest solar roofs on a commercial building in Waterloo Region. There’s also a 250-kilowatt system on a building owned by Towcon Holdings on Industrial Road in Cambridge.

People will start seeing more solar roofs glistening in the sunlight.

So far, 1,261 FIT contracts have been approved for renewable energy projects above 10 kilowatts in size, and 15 of those are now connected and generating electricity for the grid, says Kristin Jenkins, a spokesperson for the Ontario Power Authority.

Others are expected to come on stream soon and there are many more applications in the queue. “There is an ongoing high level of interest in generating clean energy in Ontario,” she says.

At Flanagan’s, the solar roof wasn’t just an investment, Flanagan says. “We are always looking for ways to reduce our environmental footprint.”

The 250-kilowatt system will produce enough clean energy to power about 26 homes each year.

Flanagan’s employs 500 people across Ontario at facilities in Kitchener, Sudbury and Owen Sound. About 350 people work at the headquarters in Kitchener.

A couple of years ago, in the midst of the recession, Flanagan’s undertook an $8-million expansion that added 65,000 square feet of space, including 50,000 square feet of refrigerated space, boosting the size of the Kitchener facility to 200,000 square feet.

More details and photos on The Record Web site: http://www.therecord.com/news/business/article/479155--local-food-distributor-joins-green-hydro-push


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