Air Transat: Leveraging the sun

In 2015, Air Transat installed a solar wall on its maintenance hangar located near the Montréal-Trudeau airport, thanks to a Solar Preheating Grant under Énergir’s Energy Efficiency Program – Renewable Energy. After four winters of use, this solar air preheating device has not only reduced the energy bill, it has also amortized the acquisition cost.
SAVINGS

over
13,000 m³

Actual winter savings achieved
GRANT

$13,620

Based on expected savings of 6,882 m³

Energy lost every time the doors opened

In 2011, the Air Transat head office became the first Canadian building to earn LEED-EB Platinum certification. Striving for continuous improvement, in 2014 Air Transat mandated the firm Bouthillette Parizeau (BPA) to conduct an energy feasibility study for its Airbus A310, A320 and A330 maintenance hangar.

The study revealed that the hangar’s energy consumption was very high. In fact, just opening the main door for one minute would reduce the temperature of the entire building to the outside temperature. If it was -30°C outside, for example, you had to raise the temperature by 50°C every time the door closed.

“The goal was clear: not only did we need to cut down our energy consumption and GHG emissions, we also needed to improve employee comfort during the winter months. We had to come up with some creative efficiency measures to make it cost effective and comfortable,” said Geneviève Dubé, environmental systems and services advisor at Air Transat.

A solution made possible thanks to grants

Among the measures proposed in the BPA study, Air Transat opted to change the ventilation system and install a solar wall. So the company installed a dark-coloured perforated plate façade to capture the sun’s heat, preheat the outside air and then distribute it inside the building. The system is not dependent on the outside temperature, but on sunlight, which is abundant in the Greater Montréal area during the winter.

This energy improvement project was eligible for two grants: Énergir’s Solar Preheating Grant, and a grant from the Bureau de l’efficacité et de l’innovation énergétiques (now known as Transition énergétique Québec).

The solar wall installation and the modifications to the heating and ventilation systems required eight weeks of work, and the system became operational in summer 2015.
These grants were instrumental in obtaining management’s approval of the project, especially with a return on investment expected within just three-and-a-half years!

Geneviève Dubé
Environmental systems and services advisor, Air Transat

Sustantially reduced consumption

“The data compiled after the first winter showed that the solar wall was underutilized. So we modified the configuration to have it work continuously and become the compensation source for fresh air in the hangar,” explained Marc-Antoine Chenail, an engineer with BPA.

Over the last three winters, the solar wall has helped reduce natural gas consumption by more than 13,000 m3, which is double what was expected.

Optimal location for minimal maintenance

Since the Air Transat hangar is exposed to strong winds and sun, the solar wall does not require maintenance or snow removal because it is impossible for any ice to build up. And the plate perforations are large enough to prevent any other form of build-up.

What’s more, the solar wall blends right in with the decor! “The wall is black against a white building. People often think it was an architectural design choice. Many employees have passed right by the solar wall without even noticing it, and have asked where it is,” said Geneviève Dubé.

Receive up to $200,000

The grant accorded by Énergir under this program may reach up to $200,000. Énergir will pay a grant of $2 per cubic metre of natural gas saved toward the purchase and installation of a solar collector connected to a natural gas ventilation system.

Eligible solar thermal collectors list (PDF)