Solar energy FIT for municipal support

Proponents of placing solar panels atop industrial, institutional and commercial sites across Barrie can count on support from the City of Barrie in their efforts to harness the power of the sun.
General committee passed a resolution supporting development of solar-panel projects requiring a provincial Feed In Tariff (FIT) Program Version 2 contract. Municipal support allows project developers to receive priority points under the FIT program. Council will likely ratify the resolution at its next meeting.
The support comes with a price: a $100 cost-recovery fee.
Projects under the Small FIT program eligible for ‘official’ municipal support will generate between 10 and 500 kilowatts of electricity per hour. Updated regulations for FIT contracts announced on Aug. 10 allow project proponents to approach the municipality for support in the form of a resolution.
However, such support isn’t to be interpreted as municipal approval of other aspects of an overall development of which the solar-panel project is a part.
Installing solar panels on a rooftop can be a profitable enterprise for property owners, as well as solar-energy businesses. A FIT contract runs for 20 years and guarantees a return of 55 cents a kilowatt-hour for power fed into the province’s energy grid.
Power generated can also be used to fuel a building’s electricity system, thereby saving costs.
The guaranteed return has been scaled back from the original offering of 80.2 cents, a reduction of about 30 per cent. Getting a FIT contract is covered under the province’s Green Energy Act, launched in 2009 to hasten the development of renewal energies, notably wind and solar.
Municipal support is key to a project getting priority points and proceeding through to provincial approval. Council could support projects in one of two ways: through a project-by-project basis, or a blanket support of projects within the approved power-generation range. General committee adopted the latter.
Part of the resolution adopted by committee calls for the installation of solar panels at seven municipal buildings, including at the Wastewater Treatment Facility (WTF).
Municipal support is not a mandatory requirement for getting a FIT contract. However, of the 17.5 priority points that are available, local support represents two. Others are: community participation project, 3; aboriginal participation project, 3; education or health project, 2, aboriginal support, 2, project readiness, 1; pre-existing application time stamp on or after July 5, 2011, .5; education or health host, 2, system benefit, 1.
A timeframe for projects submitted for consideration under the first FIT program to reapply is still under review by the province, which had proposed a window of opportunity between Oct. 1 and Nov. 30. That window has now been closed, and the City plans to monitor Ministry of Energy websites for a new timeframe. The City intends to reapply for the project at the WTF.
Rooftop solar panels are less intrusive in areas where they are located than other types of energy creating projects, including wind energy, municipal staff reported. Staff also investigated support protocols in five other municipalities, and found that four implemented blanket support for projects.

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