Farmers and solar energy businesses are relieved after the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) announced on August 13 that recent changes to the pricing scheme for small-scale, ground-mounted solar panel installations under Ontario’s micro feed-in tariff (microFIT) will not be applied retroactively.
On July 2nd, Ontario’s Energy Minister, Brad Duguid, announced that the price offered for energy produced by ground-mounted solar installations 10kW and less would be reduced from 80.2 cents/kWh to 58.8 cents. The change was to be applied to all projects currently under review, and the OPA later added that commercial aggregators, companies who lease multiple rooftop spaces for solar panel installations, are no longer eligible for the microFIT. These projects will now belong to the class that includes installations of 500kW or more.
Solar Changes Affect Farmers, Businesses, Training Programs
The final announcement from the Power Authority brings the new price for ground-mounted microFIT solar panel installations up from 58.8 to 64.2 cents/ kW-hour and removes the retroactive changes for both aggregators and ground-mounted projects. This latest news has land-owners and businesses who applied to the program before July 2 breathing a sigh of relief. The changes not only affect project owners, who are mostly farmers, but also manufacturers and suppliers who rely on their business, workers, and students completing solar power training courses, who have staked their futures on the success of the program and the industry.
The OPA justifies the price changes, citing the overwhelming number of applications for ground-mounted solar energy arrays in the microFIT class. The original high prices were designed to compensate for the high costs associated with rooftop projects, and the province would have had to spend a billion dollars to finance the projects over the twenty years of the contracts. In addition to being cheaper to install, some ground-mounted systems can be rigged to track the sun, putting the cost/benefit ratio further out of balance.
While students enrolled in solar energy classes may experience a small hiccup in the number of jobs available in the solar power, the cancellation of the retroactive changes will ensure that their training will not go to waste. Business was booming before Mr. Duguid’s announcement and will likely continue to be after the fact, once the current cohort of planned projects adjusts to the new prices.
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