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    Sunday, March 22, 2009


    Solar energy giants discovering Ontario
    Tyler Hamilton, March 19, 2009 (Toronto Star)

    As a result of Ontario’s Green Energy Act, instituting the first large scale Feed-in Tariff (FiT) for New Energies in North America, major solar energy producers are flocking to the province. First Solar (from Arizona) and Recurrent Energy (from California) have acquired and are planning major installations and Nanosolar (from California) is considering building a solar module assembly plant and is studying the province’s New Energy potential with EDF Energies Nouvelles, France’s energy multinational.

    The Ontario FiT (reported on earlier in STABILITY MATTERS - NEW ENERGY IN ONTARIO...), as administered by the Ontario Power Authority, guarantees 80.2 cents per kilowatt-hour generated by residential rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems for 20 years. Larger rooftop systems, up to 100kilowatts, earn 71.3 cents. Systems between 100 and 500 kilowatts earn 63.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. Systems bigger than 500 kilowatts, like those on schools, commercial buildings and big-box stores, earn 53.9 cents.

    click to enlarge

    Ground-mounted PV power plants up to 10 megawatts earn at the rate of 44.3 cents per kilowatt-hour.

    Recurrent Energy is especially excited about the new Ontario rates because it just purchased 350 megawatts of planned solar installations from UPC Solar, much of which is in the province.

    10% of the 2,000 planned megawatts First Solar recently purchased from OptiSolar in a $400 million deal are in Ontario.

    The Green Energy Act’s tariff levels remain subject to revision and the energy ministry is requesting input.

    click to enlarge

    - Canada’s most populous province would not warrant so much attention if its means for generating a New Energy boom was not such a hot topic. The FiT is Europe’s most successful and, at the same time, most controversial tool for driving New Energy growth. Ontario’s is the first state-sized application of an FiT in North America.

    click to enlarge

    - The FiT was developed and improved in Germany and is acknowledged as the incentive that made Germany the biggest solar energy producer in the world. It is the incentive currently driving growth in Spain, Italy, Portugal and France and is part of the solar energy renaissance being planned in Japan.

    click to enlarge

    - The difficulty with the FiT is getting the details right. Some solar professionals complain that Ontario rates are not high enough, especially for solar power plant-sized systems in the currently credit-constrained economy. On the other hand, Spain's 2007-08 rates were so high they drove too much growth, tipped the government program into financial problems, created supply shortages that led to cost increases and generally wrought havoc until the tariff was cut back.
    - The big advantage of the FiT is that, unlike tax credits, it guarantees investors long-term certain cash returns.
    - Bottom line: There will be much more about the FiT as enthusiasm for it grows on this side of the Atlantic.

    click to enlarge

    - Martin Roscheisen, Founder/CEO, Nanosolar: "The Ontario policies are very promising and we are now actively tracking this…[The new prices] could tip the balance in favour of investment in Ontario."
    - Arno Harris, CEO, Recurrent Energy: "Adding a pipeline like this to our business increases our bargaining power," said Harris, explaining that economies of scale allow the company to lower costs by placing bulk orders for solar modules. "Our goal is to develop over 100 megawatts and get it into commercial operation by 2012."

    click to enlarge

    - Ron Mantay, country manager, SunEdison Canada "It's just a bit low at this point…It's the utility scale projects that are the key to job creation and cost reduction, and the current proposed rules might not be enough to motivate manufacturers to shop here in Ontario."
    - Amy Tang, spokeswoman, Ontario energy ministry: "Anyone having concerns with the proposed pricing should provide their feedback to the agency…"
    - Roscheisen, Nanosolar: "[A feed-in tariff] makes the market predictable and thus investible for the kinds of long-term, fundamental technology improvements and investments that will ultimately make solar a mainstream energy source…We congratulate Ontario for its forward-looking thinking…"


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