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An interesting wrinkle in solar energy development is: who really owns the roof? As property owners across Ontario decide whether to put solar panels on their roofs, the toughest issue often turns out to be: tenants’ rights and interests. This is obviously not a problem for buildings that are owner-occupied. But a large part of the flat empty roofs in Ontario are leased commercial or industrial premises. Such leases often cover the property “to the roof”, and allow the landlords to pass roof repair costs (as well as heating and cooling costs) through to the tenant. Sometimes tenants actually use part of the roof, e.g. for air conditioning or similar equipment. Or perhaps tenants will want to use the roof, e.g. for the peak shaving Ice Box now promoted by Toronto Hydro. And tenants will suffer if adding anything to the roof causes a leak. So who has a say in whether solar panels should go on the roof? And who should share in the revenue?

Solar electricity earns a huge premium over wind, fossil, or other types of electricity generation, and the Feed in Tariff price is designed to guarantee solar owners a profit. But that profit turns out to be surprisingly modest for existing large commercial or industrial properties, in relation to the importance of keeping present and future tenants happy.

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