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So What is All This About Homeowners Re-Selling Solar Energy Back to the Province of Ontario?
What exactly is the new feed in tariff program?
Feed in tariff programs are a way for governments to initiate the Third Industrial Revolution which is shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.
Typically it buys energy produced by solar, wind, bio-gas or hydro generation and provides long-term contracts to industry and the population. The contract value will be calculated based on investment and a good return on investment, which is sufficient to encourage movement.
In our grid based centralized power system, we will move from large power plants to a distributed power system. For smaller systems less than 10Kw this is not a problem, but for larger systems some local economic testing should be done to see if it is worthwhile for power companies in a particular area to invest in adopting cables and transformers. new power
How long has this program been running?
The new FIT program started last October. It has two parts, FIT and microFIT for systems below 10Kw The FIT program has been very successful to date and 2900Mw of contracts have been awarded so far.
The initial target under the Microfit program is around 100,000 homes. About 16,000 applications have been received so far; Most of these are for agricultural ground mount systems. About 3500 roofing contracts have been awarded so far.
How will this benefit homeowners in Ontario?
There are two main benefits – directly to the home owner and then to Ontario as a whole.
1. First, the return on investment is set at around 8% to encourage homeowners to participate in the program. This means you can sign a 20-year contract with the Ontario Power Authority and create a small business to generate electricity. The 8% ROI is calculated based on the cost of purchasing and installing a renewable energy system such as solar panels. This is new to the province and you can expect the price to change as the cost of renewable energy systems drops, but the 8% ROI will remain the same.
2. The bigger picture is that it drives a renewable energy industry, creates jobs and reduces our carbon footprint. We move from a centralized system to a distributed energy generation so negating the need to build new expensive power plants, we can shut down coal-fired plants and reduce the import of expensive and dirty electricity during our peak load times in the summer, therefore reducing air pollution. and save money.
How does it actually work?
You should see it as the power to produce a small business. It connects to the grid and feeds your neighborhood. Solar panels are installed on the roof, connected to a disconnect switch and then fed to the grid through a production meter. You will still have your usage meter for your regular day usage. You will receive a bill for consumption and a check from your LDC for production.
We know how bureaucratic the province can be – how complicated is the registration process?
The microFIT process is very simple for systems under 10kWh. The application for a home owner is done online. About 6 weeks later a response came back with a conditional offer The homeowner arranges to install the solar panels, must get inspections and permits, then the local electric company plugs in a production meter and you’re producing! You will receive a contract offer from OPA which you must agree to within 45 days. Then you wait for the first check. Some systems allow you to monitor your solar panels on-line so you can see your production hourly, daily, weekly, etc.
Which is the best system?
There are really 6 things for the home owner to watch out for:
1. Domestic content. First, it is absolutely imperative that homeowners understand that there is a 60% domestic content requirement, assuring Ontarians that their tax dollars are being kept in Ontario. Currently off-shore panels are allowed this year, but will expire on December 31, 2010.
2. Quality system. I urge all homeowners to make sure they purchase quality Canadian-made systems that are designed to last.
3. Professional analysis. I recommend having a professional solar analyst perform an assessment of your potential solar installation so that you can give a realistic performance estimate as well as detail any difficulties with the installation that could lead to additional costs. All of these should be taken into account when calculating your return on investment.
4. Avoid unrealistic ROI. Avoid any vendor giving you crazy ROI – I’ve seen 25% quoted – it’s completely unrealistic.
5. Research the product. Solar panels come in mono-crystalline and poly-crystalline formats. Mono is pure silicon and more expensive but slightly more efficient. Poly panels are less expensive, have a shorter carbon offset life and are usually larger in size. Carbon offset or carbon neutral life means the amount of renewable electricity it produces that offsets the amount of carbon produced to manufacture the panels, usually 4 years. Solar panels can be mounted on sloped or flat roofs, ground and pole mount tracker systems.
6. System Design. There are also a few different system designs – micro-inverters where the panel produces 240AC like the grid and string inverters which are high voltage DC (and very dangerous). The string inverter design is much like Xmas lights, they all go out when you pull one. The micro-inverter design is superior because shading affects only one panel instead of all They also emit a data signal for web monitoring.
How expensive is it and what is the return on investment?
Return on investment is typically 8% and systems are typically 100% financed. The system pays for itself in 7-9 years. An average 3Kw system for homeowners will generate about $3000 per year depending on site and shade. A 3Kw system for an Ontario manufactured system will cost about $25,000 to install
How much space does it take?
Normally you would install on a sloped roof facing south, but SE and SW work very well. You will want to install as many panels as possible as adding to the contract later will require renegotiating your contract.
If you are a farmer with lots of space, I would consider a tracker system. They are more expensive but they are more efficient as they track the sun.
Do you need a specific roof or structure?
Your roof must be good. A good analyst will examine your roof from the attic. If you have multiple shingles, he may recommend replacement to avoid having to de-install and reinstall your panels. Remember that panels will outlast your shingles.
If your roof doesn’t look good I would suggest having an engineer look at it, maybe you need to install some better supports like blocks between the rafters.
Can it be installed on the ground?
Absolutely, ground mount systems such as flat roof systems can be pointed directly south, they are usually ballast type systems meaning concrete blocks hold a mounting system and the panels are installed at standard angles. Tracker pole mount systems are available in various sizes up to 10Kw or around 50 panels.
What kind of maintenance does this system require?
Usually there will be a check once a year for maintenance – cleaning the panel, making sure the wiring is good, tightening the bolts, etc. Also, with no moving parts, the system is largely maintenance free.
Are parts freely available?
Depends on where you bought them. If you decide on the Made in Ontario product, which is mandatory next year anyway, parts won’t be a problem.
With the amount of technology and innovation coming out every year, how long before this system becomes outdated?
I run a solar lab, one of only 5 in the world. Trust me you should trust technology that has been tried and true and used around the world for the past 30 years. The space program is still installing silicon solar cells on spacecraft because it is reliable and tough.
New technologies such as thin-film solar cells are still in their infancy. Accelerated life tests show that thin film technology does not like the sun, it deteriorates at a faster rate when exposed to the sun.
And what happens if the sun does not shine?
Well even on a cloudy day you will generate some electricity. When the system is designed, degradation is calculated. It accounts for cloudy days, air pollution, inverter performance, bird droppings, dirt and dust, snow, etc. Make sure you account for deterioration when looking at your final potential production numbers.
How many households has The Energy Store installed solar panels – do you have any anecdotes or success stories?
It is very new since last October. Together with our partners we have installed more than 100 systems so far but this is just the beginning. We now have over 30 analysts across Ontario and expect to sell 500-1000 systems next year. Considering the system is expected to be installed in 100,000 homes, we expect to expand quite quickly. An anecdote is that wherever we install a system, we ask 5 or 6 homeowners from the same street about the system and when they can get one!
Are Ontarians and Torontonians more open to environmental solutions that may cost a little more in the short term?
We are all part of the planet; We are gradually becoming aware of the need to phase out fossil fuels and change our society to one that partners with our biosphere. I believe that everyone is now more aware than ever and open to investing in solutions that will improve our planet.
Where can homeowners go for more information?
You can visit our website which has a lot of information. You can also Google microFIT and visit the OPA website. Wikipedia gives a very interesting history of the FIT program.
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