OPA Scales Back Payouts for Ground-Mounted Solar Installations

Photo: istockphotos/LL28

In early July, the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) announced that it intends to scale back the prices offered for ground-mounted solar installations under its feed-in-tariff (FIT) program. The purpose of the program is to encourage the growth of Ontario’s solar, wind, biofuel, and hydro industries. It not only helps the environment, but it also creates jobs and puts the province at the forefront of the emerging green economy.

The FIT program gives producers of clean energy 20-year contracts that guarantee above-market prices for feeding renewable power into the grid. In return, participating projects must source a certain percentage of materials and labour in-province. The highest price, 80.2 cents per kilowatt hour, is currently offered for rooftop and ground-mounted microFIT projects under 10kW. The OPA has received around 16,000 microFIT applications, most of which are for ground-mounted solar installations.

Proposed Changes to Keep Green Economy Sustainable?

The OPA proposes to lower the price offered for power generated by small-scale ground-mounted systems to 58.8 cents/kilowatt hour. While the FIT’s high prices are designed to encourage production of clean energy, the premiums for small rooftop projects are intended to reimburse building owners for the costs of these solar installations. The OPA asserts that ground-mounted projects are cheaper to install and that the prices it offers should reflect the difference. The proposed changes create a pricing scheme for renewable power that, the OPA argues, is more realistic over the long term. Projects already approved will not be affected by the changes, and pricing for all other installations will remain the same.

The proposed changes have the blessing of Ontario’s Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure. However, stakeholders and citizens were encouraged to attend webinars on the proposed price changes in July and to submit their comments to the Power Authority by the end of that month. The update on the OPA’s site is as follows: “The microFIT team will make an announcement about the new price category as soon as possible following review of the materials and information received. The deadline to resubmit microFIT applications has been extended to September 7, 2010, at 5 p.m.”

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Austin Brentley is a born and bred Washingtonian who has spent the last 9 years traveling the globe, living in New York, Hawaii, Japan, Thailand, France, and most recently, Malaysia.  Passionate about all things green, Austin currently works with the Ontario Solar Academy, writing news stories and blogs about North America's growing solar revolution.  Feel free to drop him a line if you have questions about photovoltaic technology or solar panel installation training.