Solar farms in Ontario begin their 20-year harvest

Toronto-based renewable-energy developer SkyPower Corp., along with joint-venture partner SunEdison, formally announced the activation and grid connection today of a 9.1 megawatt solar park near the tiny Ontario town of Stone Mills. Their project, called First Light I, becomes the first multimegawatt-scale solar park in Canada to go live.  Two more phases are in the works — First Light II and First Light III — which will add 7.8 MW and 10 MW, respectively.

First Light I takes up 90 acres, equivalent to 50 Canadian football fields (i.e. they’re larger than those pansy NFL fields). All three phases totalling about 26 MW will cover 290 acres and be composed of 130,000 solar panels. These projects are backed by 20-year power purchase contracts obtained under Ontario’s former Renewable-Energy Standard Offer Program, or RESOP. That means the companies can sell power from the projects into the Ontario grid at 42 cents (Canadian) per kilowatt-hour. And because it’s not under the new Feed-In Tariff (FIT) program, it doesn’t have to comply with new local content rules.

First Solar and EDF are in similar situations under the RESOP — 42 cents and no local content restrictions. EDF started construction in June of its 23.4 MW project in Arnprior, Ontario (near Ottawa), while First Solar (which acquired the Ontario project pipeline from OptiSolar earlier this year) has been busy in Sarnia with more than 10 megawatts already installed. Today, it was announced that natural gas and oil pipeline giant Enbridge Inc. of Calgary was purchasing 20 megawatts of First Solar’s Sarnia pipeline for something close to $100 million. Enbridge also indicated that it’s interested, potentially, in doing more deals with First Solar, which has about 80 MW of projects in Sarnia and more than 200 MW under contract across province with the Ontario Power Authority.

In other news, expect Samsung to build about 100 MW of solar in Ontario — potentially. The company, which has signed a “framework agreement” with the province of Ontario (whatever that means), appears ready to develop 500 megawatts worth of wind and solar in the province. The hint came this week, when Energy and Infrastructure Minister George Smitherman directed the power authority to “hold in reserve” 500 MW of transmission capacity for a certain “proponent” doing some business dealings with the government — i.e. Samsung. The government is giving Samsung the royal treatment because it has also indicated plans to manufacture wind and solar products in Ontario to meet its own and other developer demands.

Sounds good, unless you’re a developer being booted further back in the transmission-connection waiting queu. Expect some vocal pushback. (check out my Monday column for more on that).

8 thoughts on “Solar farms in Ontario begin their 20-year harvest”

  1. “…i.e. they’re larger than those pansy NFL fields.” HMMPPHH! That’s only because you Canadians got confused with all that metric and SAE measurments when you tried to copy OUR game, and just got it all wrong! Even NFL Europe at least got the measurments right, even if they never could figure out the difference between a forward pass and a lateral! Besides- we would never compare the size of our renewable energy constructions to a few football fields- that’s why we call them farms! And I mean TEXAS-sized farms! Which are only slightly smaller than our Texas-sized ranches. (but congrats on this solar park coming online- its small, but a start- baby steps…)

  2. Texas sized! Hmmmh! The last I looked, Texas would fit into 75% of Ontario. Now Ontario sized? That is big and as a result our players need bigger fields.

  3. First Light seems like an ideal project. Located in the transmission green zone (lots of transmission capacity), near large load centres (Stone Mills is not too far away from Oshawa, Kingston, etc.), built on industrial land and a good deal for Ontario’s electricity rate payers (First Light is being paid less than current FIT prices since it was built before FIT was launched). If only the panels/invertors/etc. were made in Ontario – we’d have a winning project all the way around! I guess that’s the trade off when paying more for the electricity produced. Congrats to SkyPower for getting this project to production.

  4. First of all, P Byer, apples to oranges- Ontario is a Territory, Texas is a State- and even at that, we used to be so big, we sold Colorado for some pocket change back in the 1830’s. Second, isn’t Ontario like 80% ice 80% of the time? If Global Warming kicks in, Ontario will melt down to the size of Rhode Island! (just kidding, of course- I like Canda- but I love Texas;-)

  5. Given that the average wholesale price of Ontario so far this year is just over 3 cents per kwh, the fact that these solar farms need a tariff rate almost 15 times higher just goes to show you what a boondoggle these solar projects in Ontario are! You’d need 2,000 of these albatrosses to meet Ontario power demand (when it’s not cloudy, nightime or they’re covered in snow!)

  6. You are looking at the costs from a very narrow perspective, Eyes-wide-open- first, Solar, and other renewables, are going to cost more because they are new- to get the costs down requires this type of investment now. Second, I am reminded of an old 70’s Fram Oil Filter commercial, where a mechanic says “You can pay now, or you can pay me later.” Going cheap up front generally does not pay in the long run, both in taking shortcuts for engine maintenance and supplying energy for our cities. I think if you take a look at the rising costs of health due to pollutants in the air, especially in urban areas, you will see that the real cost is much more the 3 cents per Kwh you quote, and those costs are rising. There are other areas of hidden costs as well, but I think you get the idea.

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