Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ontario solar projects put on hold

John Spears
Business Reporter

A thousand mostly rural residents across Ontario who were awarded solar energy contracts last summer have been told their projects have been put on hold.

That has left many with tens of thousands of dollars invested in projects for which they now have no prospect of getting any income.

“I’ve got $70,000 sitting right out in my backyard,” said Brian Wilson, who lives near Belleville, of his 10-kilowatt solar array. “I can go two doors down and they’ve got $70,000 invested, too.”

But they’ve both been told that they can’t connect to the electrical grid because of technical issues.

“It’s a mess,” says Kim Doherty of Farmed Energy Inc., who supplies solar equipment. He started getting calls from clients this week, saying they’d been told no connections are available for their projects.

One of his clients, a father-and-son team near Strathroy, made a $170,000 down payment on solar equipment, and built four concrete support platforms at a cost of $20,000 each, Doherty said.

They’re supposed to make another $170,000 payment on delivery in a few weeks. This week, they got notice that only two of their four solar arrays can be connected.

The notice that Wilson got from Hydro One gave no time frame for when he might be connected, or when money would start flowing.

“Some applicants are facing system constraints and will not be able to connect until system upgrades are made,” the letter said.

“We regret to inform you that we are unable to provide you with an offer to connect your microFIT project at this time.”

“Hydro One will be working to identify and prioritize the necessary investments to enable further connections. Planning and implementing viable system upgrades will require time and coordination with other sector agencies, including the Ontario Energy Board, which is the body responsible for approving system investments of this nature.”

The province told 20,000 applicants across Ontario last year they had been awarded contracts for solar energy under what they called their microFIT program.

About 3,700 have been connected to date.

But about 1,000 have now been told they can’t be connected in the foreseeable future, because local utilities don’t have the wires or other equipment to carry their power to the grid.

The would-be solar entrepreneurs already had one bitter battle with the provincial government last summer, when the province slashed the rate being paid for power from some types of installations.

Wilson said the administration of the system is puzzling.

He has neighbours, a husband and wife, who each applied for microFIT contracts on the same piece of land.

The wife’s application, made in January, was just approved. The husband’s, submitted last summer, still hasn’t been processed, he said.

Wilson said he’s been bounced from one office to another in Ontario’s multi-layered energy bureaucracy, trying to get answers.

Doherty said his Strathroy clients were especially taken aback by the partial refusal because a Hydro One employee recently visited their property and told them how much it would cost to get their connections.


http://www.thestar.com/business/article/937782--ontario-solar-projects-put-on-hold

see also
http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2011/02/12/kelly-mcparland-ontario-quietly-reverses-field-on-wind-solar-energy/

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