The City of Toronto has awarded contracts to equip 20 municipal facilities with solar thermal equipment that will provide heat to buildings. But instead of owning the systems, the city is only purchasing the heat energy to offset the use of fossil fuels. Fifteen of the sites will have systems built, owned and operated by Mondial Energy Inc., while the remaining five go to CC Solar Inc. — both companies from Toronto. These “solar utilities” have struck 20-year heat purchase agreements with the city, replicating a model that has worked for companies like SunEdison for the deployment of solar PV systems. It’s believed to be the largest solar *thermal* utility contract signed with a major North American municipality.
This just in: Mondial has also announced it is one of two solar utilities chosen by the State of Wisconsin to supply solar heat energy to government buildings, including sites at the University of Wisconsin and state correctional institutions. It’s being touted as the first initiative of its kind at a state level.
Jenn Kho over at Greentech Media has a great story about John Paul Morgan, a guy from Toronto who was working overseas for Doctors Without Borders when he decided to develop a concentrated solar PV system that was affordable enough for African villages. He formed a company last year, called Morgan Solar, that has raised a couple million dollars but is looking for a new $10 to $20 million round. It’s an inspiring story about a guy who saw a need and decided to fill it. But it’s also a story about the challenges that lie ahead.
Last week we knew a big announcement would be made, but this morning the cat is out of the bag. Norway’s Renewable Energy Corp. said today it will build a solar silicon materials plant in Becancour, Quebec, and will invest at least $1.2 billion (Cdn) to do it. This is a huge announcement, and will create 300 jobs in the province. REC said it chose Quebec because it was able to negotiate a competitive 20-year electricity rate from the province. That, combined with the fact that a lion’s share of power production in Quebec is hydroelectric, sat well with REC. The company apparently was interested in lowering the carbon footprint of its energy-intensive business.
Good on Quebec for driving this deal through. According to REC, it spent 17 months screening more than 100 possible locations in 16 countries. It then narrowed the list to 40 sites before going through intense due diligence. Once a short list was established it engaged in final negotiations. Certain jurisdictions, like Iceland or Quebec, have an advantage over others because they are heavy on renewables — such as geothermal and hydroelectric — and aren’t subject to fuel price volatility. This means they can not only offer power for cheap, but can also offer a price that stays the same for 20 years.