Feed-in Tariff rates change, but the program still offers investors an attractive ROI
As of March 15 2012, the Ontario Power Authority set new tariff rates for its FIT and microFIT programs. The solar installation industry breathed a collective sigh of relief as manufacturers and installers are finally able get back to work after months of delay caused by the tariff review process. With the first tariff review complete, the new rates see a reduction of 30%. Does this dramatic drop in revenue render Feet-in Tariff programs untenable?
New Feed-in Tariff rates for Ontario
A 30% decrease in tariffs may seem like a giant leap for some, but the incredible drop in panel prices helps to absorb most of this reduction. The reduction helps to create a renewable energy plan for the province that is sustainable and offers fair compensation for renewable energy. Rooftop mounted Feed-in Tariff systems of 10 kW or smaller will now receive 54.9 c/kWh and ground-mounted units of 10 kW will receive remuneration of 44.5 c/kWh. See a full table of pricing here. All applications submitted after September 1, 2011 will be subject to the new tariffs.
The 60% local content stipulation for those who wish to participate in the FIT and microFIT programs has meant that a growing local industry has been created. This industry of panel manufacturers and installers has floundered in the months it has taken the government to review the Feed-in Tariff programs. Thousands of jobs have been created and millions invested in the province to meet the demand created by these programs. The OPA has to price the programs fairly so that this burgeoning industry is able to survive. Tariff cuts may seem drastic, but they reflect the massive reductions in panel prices and the Feed-in Tariff programs remain viable for prospective applicants.
Prospective Feed-in Tariff applicants can still look forward to a 15% yearly ROI on both rooftop microFIT and FIT projects and 12.4% on a ground mounted tracking systems. If you are considering a unit, it may be pertinent to remember that the government will be reviewing tariffs every two years. It’s best to act now while tariffs are at a premium.
Feed-in Tariff in action
When SolarLine Power was asked to install a microFIT system on an apartment block, they met with some challenges. The 2.5 story building contained 6 apartments on three floors and the challenge was to maximize the total kW amount to the microFIT 10kW maximum. Other tenders were unable to design systems over 5kW due to weight limitations on the roof which could only safely sustain a total of no more than 5 pounds per square foot. The full quota of panels needed to be installed for the project to be financially viable.
SolarLine Power, a local Ontario solar panel installation company, designed a system for the flat roof that consisted of 36 solar roof panels (9kW) with non-penetrating ballast weighing approximately 3000 pounds over 855 square feet resulting in an average additional load of less than 3.6 pounds per square foot. Additional pales were mounted on a custom awning attached to the side of the building.
Solar System Size
11.4kWh DC – 8.78kWh AC (77% derate factor)
AC Output Average Over 1 year
Daily: 36 kWh
Monthly: 1,098 kWh
Yearly: 13,148 kWh
1 Month: $879
1 Year: $10,545
5 Years: $55,383
20 Years: $221,439
With a 15% ROI, the solar installation pays for itself in no time at all and then goes on to make the property owners a tidy sum. If you are considering a Feed-in Tariff install, it’s still well worth it. With the nest OPA review scheduled in two year’s time, its best to act soon.
DEGERenergy tracking units allow solar panels to track the sun’s trajectory across the sky and can improve the solar output of your system by 20-45%. The DEGERenergy system rotates the panels to maximize energy yields and efficiency. This improves your ROI and puts more Sun Money in your pocket. The OPA’s FIT and microFIT tariff programs pay a premium for solar power generated by individuals or businesses. Installing a solar panel system on your home, business, school or church will enable you to create energy you can be proud of and a make whole bundle of Sun Money to boot.
New Feed-in tariff rates
As the OPA readies itself to announce its new rates next week, solar installers are raring to go. Solar installations have ground to halt since the OPA announced its intention to change its rates in October of last year. The plethora of solar power installation companies that have sprung up since the FIT and microFIT programs were put into effect are under strain as their installations have been brought to a standstill. Now, with the program slated to bust into action this spring, home and business owners are looking at which option offer the best returns.
Best idea ever
One of this year’s hottest sellers is the DEGERenergy tracking unit. This amazingly clever device is installed on ground-mounted or roof-mounted panels to maximize your solar output. You can have one of these puppies in your back yard or on an unobstructed area of your business premises, school yard, church grounds, parking lot or sports field. The DEGERenergy tracking unit adjusts the panels throughout the day so that they are oriented in the position that ensures maximum solar energy yields. Two sensor cells in the DEGERenergy tracker monitor solar energy and adjust the panel orientation accordingly. A third sensor cell resets the panels every morning. Adverse weather? No problem as the DEGERenergy unit orients the panels to make the most of radiation in inclement weather.
Make more money, faster
DEGERenergy tracker systems offer several benefits over static solar panel arrays:
- Increases solar output by 20-45% which increases your feed-in tariff payments
- Comes with a standard five-year warranty
- Easy to install
- Maintenance free
- Improves ROI
- Flexible; suitable for all current modules and inverter types
- 99.9% recyclable
The patented DEGERenergy tracker system is especially designed to withstand strong winds and is storm-resistant in any position. Advanced German engineering is coupled with Canadian and US manufacturing expertise to create a truly remarkable product.
The DEGERenergy tracking unit does not add much to your solar panel installation bill, but it does reduce your payoff period. The increased efficiency that DEGERenergy trackers give your solar panel installation increases your feed-in tariff income and helps you get a return on your investment in no time at all.
Choose a certified contractor
Not all solar panel installation companies are created equally. Many small businesses have sprung up around the solar industry and you must practice caution when shopping for a solar panel installation company that has your best interests at heart. DEGERenergy tracking systems can only be installed by certified installers in order to validate the five-year warranty. Ask your dealer if they have certification and check that they have installed a DEGERenergy tracking system before.
The SolarEdge PV inverter combines a sophisticated, digital control technology and a one stage, efficient power conversion architecture to achieve superior solar power harvesting and best-in-class reliability.
Their fixed-voltage technology ensures the solar inverter is always working at its optimal input voltage, regardless of the number of modules in a string or environmental conditions.
The CDN & US single phase inverter comes with a built in DC switch while the European single phase inverter can be fitted with a seamlessly attachable cabling duct for managing the installation wirings. Both are light enough for a single person to install on a supplied bracket.
Single Phase Inverter Feature highlights:
- Solar inverters specifically designed to work with power optimizers
- Superior efficiency (>97%)
- Excellent reliability with standard 12 year warranty (extendable to 20 years)
- Small, lightweight and easy to install
- Built in module-level monitoring receiver
- Communication to internet via broadband or wireless ZigBee
- IP65 / NEMA 3R – Outdoor and indoor installation
The solar industry has helped Ontario stay afloat during the financial slump. Private investment in the industry is expected to reach $12.9 billion by 2018. The success of this burgeoning industry is largely due to the province’s FIT and microFIT schemes. These schemes give incentives to home and business owners as well as farmers who set up solar arrays on their properties and sell the energy generated to the province at preferential rates.
A recent study showed that the solar industry had invested $2 billion in the province in 2011 alone, creating an estimated 8,200 jobs. A number which will increase to 11,400 in 2012 with 25 jobs created for every megawatt of energy installed by 2018, the solar industry is proving to be a real boon to the province.
Although many home and business owners are committed to switching to renewable sources of energy for the benefit to the environment, the FIT and microFIT incentives do make solar affordable to many who would not otherwise be able to install such a system. The ecoENERGY program provides rebates for the home owners who use solar technologies. These rebates are part of the government’s long-term energy plan which aims to reduce consumption by 14%.
The growing need for electricity will require the province to create new facilities and refurbish many of the old ones. By 2030, 70% of our electricity will be generated by new or refurbished nuclear facilities. The cost to the tax payer will be profound. Two nuclear reactors are already planned for the Darlington plant while 10 are being refurbished at Darling and Bruce power stations. The costs of these refurbishments will double hydro bills in the province by the time the project is complete.
Fall 2011 will see a review of the FIT and microFIT systems with an adjustment to tariffs issued to electricity producers. With an election looming in October, some political figure are blaming escalating hydro bills on the microFIT and FIT tariffs, threatening the future of these incentives and, as a result, the solar industry in the province. A study by ClearSky Advisors Inc shows that the cost of the FIT programs to residents of the province is expected to rise to 70c for a typical household bill by 2018. This amount is negligible when compared to the forecast of bills doubling thanks to refurbishments during the same time. The cost of installation and maintenance of solar systems is borne by the home or business owner making it one of the cheapest sources of electricity for consumers.
Solar energy becomes cheaper as technology advances and demand grows. The Ontario Power Authority also enforces a 60% local content law which stimulates growth of the solar design and manufacture. A recent breakthrough by the University of Alberta team (based on research from the University of Toronto) has lead to the viability of spray on solar technologies. Without the market interest in these technologies, Canada will not be able to be a market leader in the field.
The study shows the tremendously positive influence that the solar industry has had on the Ontario economy. The FIT programs have contributed to the growth of the solar industry in the province. Although revisions and adjustments of FIT tariffs is the natural progression of such projects, the programs themselves are well worth the investment. If you would like to take control of where your energy comes from, contact your local MP and voice your opinion. You should also investigate installing a solar system of your own. Use energy you can be proud of.
Ever the corporate chameleon, GE is investing in renewable energy. The corporate giant announced this week its plans for a $600 million investment in the US solar industry. The company plans to build a factory (location to be announced in the next three months) which will produce thin-film solar panels. The factory will employ 400 people and will produce enough panels to power 80 000 homes every year.