by BETTER FARMING STAFF
Some green power projects under Ontario’s feed-in-tariff program will get a grace period for meeting more stringent domestic content requirements, Better Farming has learned.
That’s “great news,” says Len Jewitt, a Palmerston area poultry producer who plans to generate 130 kilowatts using solar generation systems on two unused barns.
In an interview earlier this morning, Elizabeth McDonald, president of the Canadian Solar Industry Association had flatly denied an extension was in the works. If there is, the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) “would have to make a public announcement about it,” she said. “If they’re going to do it, there would be consultations. I would know.”
Minutes after the interview, McDonald called back, explaining she had just obtained a copy of a June 10 letter from JoAnne Butler, the Authority’s vice president of electricity resources, to one of the association’s members that says the current domestic content requirement will be extended by 120 days. The extension accommodates delays in construction and only applies to projects generating between 10 kW and 500 kW, referred to as “capacity allocation exempt,” McDonald said.
“If the OPA is going to make these changes, they should tell the whole industry,” she said. “I’m glad to see they’re responsive where the processes are holding people back, so that makes sense. On the other hand, this should have been on the OPA website.”
Authority spokesperson Ben Chin says letters were sent to all of those directly affected by the change. “We typically don’t communicate to everybody under every category when we communicate one (administrative change),” he said. “This is a special group of people affected, mainly for administrative reasons.”
It applies only to capacity allocation exempt project applications submitted between Oct. 1, 2009 and June 4 with an accelerated timeline for opening based on their domestic content, he explained.
Chin said the adjustment is meant to offset the longer-than-anticipated time it took the authority to process the applications because of the tremendous response to the program.
“Frankly we got bowled over by the number of applications,” he said. A May 7 news release from the authority indicated that it had approved 694 contracts under the FIT program with about 200 of these scheduled to be in service within a year.
The Authority initially required that projects in the FIT program obtain 25 per cent of goods and services from Ontario-based content if they were wind-based or 50 per cent if solar-based. That amount was slated to increase to 50 and 60 per cent, respectively, in 2011. The FIT program applies to green power generation of more than 10 kW and offers qualifying projects a guaranteed pricing structure. Qualifying fuel sources include; renewable biomass, landfill gas, solar photovoltaic, water power and wind.
Jewitt said that he’s not entirely sure what impact the extension will have on his FIT project. “Our process is still in the works.” He said he’s hoping to meet this year’s domestic content requirements, “but you take a number and stand in a queue.”
The surge of interest in the program makes the queue long. “You need to be patient and let those people that are tracking the paperwork through do their due (diligence),” he said. BF