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Incentives for Generating Electricity from Solar Energy
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In the pretty picture above, a coal-fired electricity generation plant belches out black smoke. This makes a nice picture, but the impact on the environment is a different matter. The dirt, pollution and the greenhouse gases emitted should concern all of us. The Ontario Green Energy Act has among other provisions set an attractive rate for small scale solar electric generated electricity so that this hopefully will encourage enough new production resources so that Ontario's coal-fired generating plants can be closed forever. You can participate, to both benefit the planet and your own wallet at the same time.

This page focuses on the financial side of microFIT and FIT. For an overall view see our main page for microFIT.

microFIT

The Ontario Power Authority, the crown corporation that is responsible for Ontario's power generation announced a program called microFIT on Oct 1, 2009 that is targeted at small scale electricity producers, that paid $0.802 per kWh of Photovoltaic (PV) generated electricity. This is about 6 times what we pay for retail purchase of electricity. This price has been reduced several times.

After July 2, 2010 any new ground mounted aplications to the OPA will receive $0.642 per kWh, while applications filed before this date will receive the original price regardless of if it is mounted on a roof or on the ground. This pricing model where ground mounted systems receive a lower price than roof mounted panels still applies. The prices have been dropping since that date, in response to lower costs to buy solar panels and racking.

Currently as of Jan 1, 2017 the prices are $0.288 for roof mount and $0.21 for ground mount.

The complete details of this program can be read on the following web site. http://microfit.powerauthority.on.ca/

A brief summary is that home owners and rural land owners can put in small scale Photovoltaic systems of up to 10kW nameplate capacity and sell that power at a guaranteed rate for the life of a 20 year contract with the IESO. The OPA merged with the IESO on jan 1, 2014.

Why is this attractive? In Almonte, a typical stationary installation of 10kW that is facing due south, and is tilted at 45 degrees and is unshaded can produce up to a NRCan estimated 12070 kWh a year, which the IESO will buy at $0.288 per kWH or $3476.16 a year. Over a 20 year term, this is $69,523.

This is based on a fixed mounted system, a simple system to install and has NO moving parts. It is assuming a 75% system efficiency, a typical value documented on the following NRCan website https://glfc.cfsnet.nfis.org/mapserver/pv/method.php?lang=e. A US government agency tool PVWatts http://www.pvwatts.org/ uses the value of 77% as an average system efficiency. (you can use PVWatts in Canada, it has a climate model for Ottawa. A fixed mount system has the benefit of no maintenance other than keeping the face of the panels clean a couple of times a year. Most roof mounted systems are fixed mounting systems. Your site may produce less, due to shading and less than ideal orientation.

A dual axis tracking system will produce about 30% more power, but with a higher system cost, and you loose the simplicity of a system with no moving parts. It takes a longer time to pay of the difference in cost, and the return on investment can be only slightly higher. The tracking systems are nearly always free standing, rather than roof mounted. Thus they now earn the lower ground mounted rate.

On Jan 1, 2011 the Ontario content requirement of the system jumped to 60%. Previously in 2009 and 2010 solar panels and inverters can be bought in and imported from the USA under NAFTA and the Ontario content rule could be met, with carefull planning. The modules made in the USA are currently priced more compedatively, since there are many manufacturers and they have an excess of capacity. However presently there is only one long term Ontario based manufacturer, and over a dozen companies that are new to producing product in Ontario now doing final assembly of modules in Ontario and so there is less price competition than exists outside Canada.

Now in 2014, the Ontario content requirement has dropped, and so solar panels and inverters can once again be made anywhere in the world, as long as they are CSA or ULc approved for Canada.

FIT

There is a larger program called FIT which applies to renewable energy projects over 10 kW nameplate capacity. The rate paid for the electricity producedby these projects is different than the microFIT program. The application process is more complex, and takes considerably longer.

 

The FIT program also permits leasing your land or rooftop to others to install PV. This is no longer permitted for microFIT projects.

A lot more information can be found on the IESO website for FIT.