© AgMedia Inc.
by GEOFF DALE
Ontario’s recently announced proposed new electricity pricing for renewable energy projects is getting mixed reviews from the province’s agricultural community.
Some say a greater concentration on solar power derived from technology installed on rooftops, instead of equipment on prime agricultural land is a step in the right direction. But in the same breath, they warn more details are still required about the actual cost of hooking up to the grid.
Announced last week, the provincial government is touting the program as North America’s first guaranteed pricing structure for renewable energy producers. Ontario’s Minister of Energy and Infrastructure George Smitherman says in a Mar. 12 news release that the feed-in-tariff offers a “stable, competitive price combined with a long-term contract.”
The program establishes prices for energy generated from renewable sources including wind, hydroelectric, solar, biogas, biomass and landfill gas. Rates range from 10.3 cents per kWh for landfill gas projects less than five megawatts to 80.2 cents per kWh for projects less than 10 kilowatts using rooftop solar technology.
The price structure replaces the one offered under the former renewable energy offer program, which offered only two prices - 42 cents for solar projects and 11 cents for everything else.
Ontario Federation of Agriculture general manager Neil Currie says provincial Minister of Energy and Infrastructure George Smitherman has listened to farmers concerns about using prime agricultural land, by adjusting his “rhetoric and now talking about putting solar on every rooftop.”
“That makes more sense,” he adds. “Put the technology where the user is, because it makes no sense to use the land. This is an encouraging first step.”
Now, he says it’s time for the government to clearly outline what costs are involved in producers hooking to the net.
Middlesex County Federation of Agriculture president Ed Lee says offering 80 cents for solar power from rooftop is good news, noting at least two solar producers are planning to use prime farm land in the region for their complexes.
But the cost for small producers to hook up to the grid remains a challenge, he says.
“I heard it cost one producer about $30,000 just for the equipment,” he adds. “It’s fine to have those people lined up but if they can’t afford the cost of the charges and technology, what’s the point.” BF