Tag Archives: solar PV

Is a solar PV moratorium coming in Ontario?

I’ve heard from a few different sources now that Ontario may be considering imposing a moratorium on solar PV contracts issued under the feed-in-tariff program, and while any future backtracking by this Liberal government wouldn’t surprise me, I don’t think there’s any substance to these rumours. I may be wrong, but this appears to be a clear case of echo-chamber amplification. Sure, the Libs made an incredibly stupid decision by imposing a moratorium on offshore wind development. I say stupid for a number of reasons. One, it used the “lack of science” as an excuse to pull back, even though the previous moratorium on development was lifted precisely because the Ministry of Natural Resources said it was satisfied with the studies — the science — that had been done. Suddenly that science wasn’t good enough? Lame.

Two, it would have been more justifiable to impose another moratorium if the government had let developers keep the sites they had fairly secured. Instead, the government took the sites away and told developers that when the moratorium was lifted they’d have to start from scratch. Not a way to make friends of industry or to make investors feel comfortable in Ontario. It simply made zero sense to go that far, unless of course it was politically motivated — a likely explanation that is no comfort to the developers who put millions of dollars on the line and lost it all.

So, clearly the panicky Liberals are prone to making stupid decisions when under pressure by an opposition party that knows how to press its hot buttons. Will this be repeated for solar? If it was, it would IMHO completely sink the Liberal party heading into this upcoming fall election — particularly if it targeted small solar PV projects covered under the microFIT program. For larger projects, there is technically a moratorium in place. It’s called transmission restrictions, and it means only so many projects can be built in this province until transmission capacity is expanded to accommodate more. There have already been more project contract offers than the transmission system can accommodate, so really the throttle is the pace of transmission updates and the government, through Hydro One, controls that throttle. Better to make this fact clear to voters than to declare a moratorium that does nothing else but prove the Liberal party is on the run from a progressive energy plan it should be proudly promoting, with chest out and head held high.

For the record, I asked the Ontario Power Authority about these solar PV moratorium rumours and the agency flatly denied that a moratorium was coming. “OPA is not planning a moratorium for the FIT/mFIT program,” said spokeswoman Kristin Jenkins in an e-mail. “Right now, we are going through a process to issue contracts for the new Bruce to Milton transmission line which Hydro One recently received approval for. The developers that are eligible are the ones in the Bruce and West of London transmission areas on the FIT priority ranking list.  These developers did not receive contracts in the past because there was not transmission capacity.”

I asked as well about the planned two-year review of FIT pricing. Jenkins said the process will start in 2011, but she could offer no specifics on when. “We will carry out the required two-year program review in 2011, but a date has not yet been set to start that,” she said. The sooner the better. (note: I deleted a paragraph from the original version of this post which messed up the dates of the upcoming review, leading me to an unnecessary rant. My apologies for the mistake for those who read an early version).

Snow, cold and Canada: How does solar PV hold up in the Great White North?

My Clean Break column today in the Toronto Star (it’s only online at the moment) looks at research underway at St. Lawrence College and Queen’s University in Kingston that is looking at how snowfall impacts the performance of PV panels from a variety of suppliers (crystalline and thin film) and in a range of configurations. I’ll let you read the column, but the interesting part for me is that preliminary study has indicated an albedo effect that partly compensates for lost performance due to panel snowcover. Seems for the short period of time panels do have snow on them, the longer-lasting snow that surrounds these panels amplifies the sunlight and improves the output of the panels. The benefits vary depending on panel angle and design. The higher the angle, one would presume, the better the albedo effect, and I would also imagine that thin film — which better captures the energy in ambient light — would also benefit more from the albedo effect. Will be interesting to see the results of the second phase of their study, which is taking place at four test sites in southern Ontario. Many of the regions of the world offering generous solar incentives (such as feed-in-tariffs) and experiencing some of the most rapid growth also happen to be in snowfall zones. So this kind of study will be valuable in several solar PV markets, including Canada-U.S. borders states.

A solar PV jobs fair in Guelph, Ontario… times have changed!

Five years ago the thought of any company holding a solar PV jobs fair, let alone in a community such as Guelph, Ontario, would have been absurd. But since the introduction of the province’s feed-in-tariff program for renewables, combined with local content requirements, we’re seeing a flurry of activity as manufacturers and suppliers get ready for what’s expected to be a busy year.

Just the microFIT alone — i.e. rooftop solar PV less than 10 kilowatts — has seen more than 25,000 applications approved, while larger projects that have been given the go-ahead under the FIT are expected to add more than 1,000 megawatts of solar PV to the grid over the coming two or three years. On Friday, solar PV manufacturer Canadian Solar will be holding a jobs fair in Guelph, the location of its new module manufacturing facility. The company is looking to hire process technicians, general operators, logistic staffs, engineers and others, a true sign of the type of job creation emerging from the FIT program and, behind it, Ontario’s Green Energy and Green Economy Act.

“We have a long-term commitment to this important market, and have previously announced our selection of Guelph, Ontario as the site of a 200 megawatt solar PV module plant,” said Shawn Qu, president and CEO of Canadian Solar. “This facility will be Canadian Solar’s first feed-in-tariff domestic content compliant solar manufacturing plant in Ontario, and is expected to require approximately 500 people to run at full capacity.”

The jobs fair, again, will be held Friday, February 11 at Canadian Solar’s new facility at 545 Speedvale Avenue West in Guelph (see Google Map here) between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The folks who get hired — these are the faces of the future workforce in Ontario. They need to be known. Job numbers need to be personalized. The FIT/microFIT program has its problems, but evidence of job creation is the one thing that will justify and sustain Ontario’s direction. Ratepayers and taxpayers want to see evidence beyond politicians touting numbers that can’t be verified. It’s time to bring faces to numbers, and give people a true sense of what these jobs mean for those entering the workforce and those with families to support who are trying to get back into the workforce. It’s not just manufacturing, either. It’s about the installers, the electricians, the tradepeople and others finding work in the solar PV area. It’s also about the many faces who are participating in the microFIT — farmers, community co-ops, schools, homeowners, aboriginal communities. This isn’t just about foreign companies coming in to the province to feast on generous subsidies. This is about average Ontarians choosing to participate in the future of a cleaner electricity system. This is the message that needs to be heard.

NOTE: To anyone who gets a new job in this sector, let me know. I’d like to hear your story and how green energy in Ontario helped you find steady employment.

Canadian solar industry jobs to double over three years

If you’re looking for an up-to-date breakdown of the solar industry in Canada and the jobs that are expected to be created in the coming years, check out this labour survey by Kelly Sears Consulting Group, which was commissioned by the Canadian Solar Industries Association and Canada’s Electricity Sector Council.

Key findings:

  • Doubling of jobs by 2011.
  • Industry shortage of installers right now.
  • By 2011 there will also be a shortage of system designers, project managers and engineers.
  • Recommendation to increase training and relevant curricula.

My guess is that most of these shortages and job opportunities will be created in Ontario, given the province’s Green Energy Act and progressive feed-in tariff program.

Solar PV maker Day4 Energy cuts 34 per cent of staff

Burnaby, B.C.-based solar PV maker Day4 Energy has cut 95 staff to meet the “realities” of the new solar economy — whatever that means. According to a cached version of its Web site the company had 280 employees as of Dec. 31, 2008. The cuts bring them to about 185.

“We are seeing continued strength in demand for our product in Europe and remain confident in our contracted sales for 2009, however, given the broader economic environment and seasonal weather patterns we are being proactive in managing our business to avoid inventory build-up,” said Day4 Energy co-founder and president George Rubin.

Fair enough, but a third of staff? Talk about hacking off a limb or two. Continue reading Solar PV maker Day4 Energy cuts 34 per cent of staff