Solar companies and the provincial government are working diligently to transform Ontario’s power grid into an environmentally friendly green system. Hay Solar and Mann Engineering recently announced that they are looking to offer farmers free barns, promising to furnish the sloped roofs with solar panels. Once operational, these photovoltaic panels will go to work, generating enough clean, free energy to pay for themselves in approximately 20 years. The companies believe the business model will not only satisfy the immediate storage needs of farmers, but it will also develop a new market within solar technology.
Ontario’s FIT & MicroFIT Programs Encourage Solar Installation
None of this would be possible without the provincial government’s willingness to invest heavily in solar energy. Under its feed-in-tariff (FIT) program, the Ontario Power Authority has conditionally consented to a number of long-term renewable energy contracts. The large-scale FIT projects and the smaller-scale microFIT projects will be capable of powering an estimated 600,000 homes in Ontario. In addition to providing cost-effective green energy, these projects could also help create thousands of new jobs in the process.
Renewable Energy Expected to Replace Coal-Powered Plants
With plans to remove all coal-powered plants by 2014, it is clear that the government places tremendous faith in the long-term potential of renewable energy. Currently, coal generates about 15% of the province’s electricity. Filling such a large gap will require massive investments in solar installation, wind power generation, and other renewable energy initiatives – projects whose scale and scope could help make Ontario the green energy leader in North America.
To date, most of this investment interest has been in residential and commercial solar PV installation. However, as the Green Energy Act and accompanying incentives continue to gather momentum, it is likely that solar stakeholders will branch out into other markets. Agricultural clients are at the top of many lists – farms are resource-hungry enterprises, sometimes with very thin margins. In the coming months, it is likely that other solar companies will begin targeting farmers in much the same way that Hay Solar and Mann Engineering have.
Anticipating this directional shift, Ontario Solar Network and Ontario Solar Academy recently held an event in which solar stakeholders and farmers discussed some of the key opportunities under the province’s feed-in-tariffs.
photo: Kathleen Cavalaro