Tag Archives: SunEdison

Nanticoke, once North America’s largest coal plant, to host 40MW solar farm

Okay, it’s ridiculous to compare a 40-megawatt solar PV park to a coal-fired power plant that could crank out 4,000 megawatts at peak capacity, but the fact Ontario Power Generation (OPG) got a contract today to build such a solar project at the old Nanticoke Generating Station is, at the very least, symbolically significant.

Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator announced the results Thursday of its Large Renewable Procurement (LRP), which, for good reason, replaces the previous feed-in-tariff (FIT) program. The FIT program just couldn’t keep up with the pace of technological change and learning in the industry, and since the solar and wind industry in Ontario is now well established, it was time to abandon the rich premiums that came with the FIT and make the big boys of renewable energy compete for Ontario’s business.

In total, 455 megawatt of wind, solar and hydro was contracted out as part of the LRP:

  • Five wind contracts totalling 299.5 MW, with a weighted average price of 8.59 cents per kWh;
  • seven solar contracts totalling 139.885 MW, with a weighted average price of 15.67 cents; and
  • four hydroelectric contracts totalling 15.5 MW, with a weighted average price of 17.59 cents.

See list of projects here.

The lowest price Ontario got for wind was 6.45 cents, which is half of what it initially paid under its feed-in-tariff program. As Ontario’s Clean Air Alliance pointed out, that’s lower than what a re-built Darlington Nuclear Station is expected to cost, assuming it doesn’t go over budget (and history says it likely will). Now, nuclear is baseload, wind isn’t. But keep in mind that the purchased wind power comes risk-free to Ontario ratepayers. Can’t say that for nuclear deals in the province, no matter how much lipstick you put on a pig.

With solar, the lowest price locked in was 14.15 cents, which is remarkably close to what Ontario was paying for large-scale wind under its FIT program. It’s also significantly lower than rates for large-scale solar under the FIT program, which back in 2013 started at 34 cents and climbed from there.

These power purchase agreements (PPAs) show just how much solar costs have fallen — and will continue to fall. Now, you may be tempted to point to super-low cost solar contracts announced in places like California, Texas and New Mexico. Toronto-based Skypower has even bid 8 cents (U.S.) for projects in India. But keep in mind the solar regime isn’t as favourable in Ontario, the dollar is lower, and projects were tied to some social goals. For example, 13 of 16 projects include participation from one or more Aboriginal communities, including five projects with more than 50 per cent Aboriginal participation. I wonder, however, if the province could have secured even lower bids if it agreed to backstop loans on winning projects — perhaps from a green bond issue?

Still, the price is heading in the right direction. As the Canadian Solar Industries Association said,

“It is also the first time that a utility scale solar project has been contracted at a price that is lower than the retail rate of electricity in Ontario.”

That’s a milestone we should all remember.

But back to the OPG contract. Its significance wasn’t lost on Dan Woynillowicz, policy director at Clean Energy Canada.

“It’s both a powerful symbol and great progress to see a contract offered for a solar farm that will be built on the land once occupied by the Nanticoke coal-fired power plant, once Canada’s top greenhouse gas polluter.”

I wrote about OPG’s planned bid for solar projects last May in Corporate Knights. At the time, OPG was hoping to win up to 120 megawatts worth of projects, which would be spread across its shut down Nanticoke and Lambton generation sites, as well as its still-operating Lennox station near Kingston.

Here’s what I said:

OPG, a publicly owned crown corporation, has historically been held back from bidding on renewable energy projects, given that its sheer size and influence were seen as unfair advantages in a competitive, open market procurement process. The company supplies roughly half of the province’s power, mostly through nuclear and large hydroelectric facilities.

In June 2013, however, the Ontario government restructured its feed-in-tariff program such that only smaller renewable-energy projects could participate. Larger project proposals, those generally more than 500 kilowatts in size, would need to compete through a request-for-proposal (RFP) process.

And in a controversial twist, Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli directed the Ontario Power Authority to allow OPG to participate in all renewable energy procurement rounds.

I think it’s smart to let OPG enter this game. Sure, it’s a large publicly owned incumbent, but the solar market has matured and can hold its own. OPG also has unique experience (and recent success) partnering with aboriginal communities.

One potential hitch is that SunEdison is OPG’s development partner. The company is going through some tough times right now (the existential kind), and it’s unclear whether that will have an impact on OPG’s plans.

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).