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CoPower’s latest clean energy investment helps communities earn money from the sun

We’re excited to announce the latest project to be financed by CoPower: over $2,500,000 in refinancing for a community-owned solar project in the Eastern Ontario township of McNab-Braeside.

This project is a perfect illustration of how CoPower can fill gaps in the clean energy finance market and help drive Canada’s low carbon transition forward.

A solid investment in solar energy

If you’re familiar with CoPower’s investment philosophy, boring is better, and the technological components and financing structure of this project are similar to that of small-scale solar projects found across Ontario.

Located on a rural property in McNab-Braeside, an hour outside of Ottawa, the 599 kW DC ground-mounted solar PV installation has been fully operational since July 2017. It uses tried and tested technologies like solar modules of the sort you see all over the province and around the world. We were also attracted to the project’s use of dual-axis tracking technology which allows panels to follow the sun and maximize electricity production.

CoPower looks for projects where there is a creditworthy counterparty and a steady, predictable revenue stream. This solar project holds a 20-year power purchase agreement under Ontario’s Feed In Tariff (FIT) program, and bondholder returns will indirectly come from the sale of clean electricity to the province’s Independent Energy Services Operator (IESO), an arms-length government agency with a “Aa2” credit rating (read: good) from Moody’s.

Photo courtesy of the Braeside Solar Energy Cooperative

The power of community

In addition to the clear environmental benefits — the project is expected to avoid over 40 tonnes of CO2 annually, the equivalent of 157,778 km driven by the average car — CoPower was attracted to the project’s community ownership structure and the social benefits that it brings.

Majority-owned by the Braeside Solar Energy Cooperative (BSEC), along with Creativity + Inc, an Ottawa-based engineering consultancy, these two organizations teamed up to create Renfrew Solar Enterprises Inc, the developer of the project. Their goal: to develop a democratic, self-reliant, environmentally, socially and financially sustainable business model to provide community power for their town, while providing members with a reasonable rate of return.

For our part, we’re thrilled to be able to support community-owned power which has been shown to provide outsized economic benefits. A report from the Toronto Renewable Energy Cooperative (TREC) found that every one dollar invested in community-owned power results in two dollars of economic activity. Community-owned projects generate twice as many local jobs as large-scale projects. They also increase grid resiliency, reducing the need for costly transmission.

Good for your portfolio, good for the planet.

Despite the clear financial, social and environmental benefits, community-scale projects are often too small to attract financing from traditional lenders like banks and pension funds. At the same time, they offer huge impact potential and so that’s where we focus our lending efforts.

CoPower has made loans supporting  hundreds of small to mid-size projects across Canada. In addition to Ontario solar, our loan portfolio includes loans to energy efficiency projects like LED retrofit projects in condo buildings across Ontario, BC and Alberta, as well as residential geoexchange installations in Québec. These projects generate steady revenues from the sale of clean energy or energy savings that support loan repayments to CoPower.

Learn more about how CoPower and VCIB can help you finance your next clean energy or energy efficiency projects.


This piece was originally published on CoPower was acquired by Vancity Community Investment Bank on Nov 8, 2019. CoPower’s clean energy finance team has joined VCIB and continues to provide financing services that support impactful clean energy and energy efficiency projects like this one.

The information provided herein is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute investment, financial, legal, accounting, tax, or other advice and should not be relied upon for such purpose.  Always consult a professional regarding your specific needs and circumstances.

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Vancity Community Investment Bank is a member of CDIC and is a Certified B CorpTM