Thursday, 30 October 2014

microFIT Solar Power Rates for 2015

The Ontario Power Authority (OPA) has announced rates it will pay for power from homeowners who install solar panels in 2015.

The provincial government has a program to encourage the development of solar power. The program for homeowners wishing to install panels on their roof is called microFIT. FIT stands for Feed-In-Tariff, which just means the rate the utility will pay for power produced for the grid.

The microFIT program is for FIT projects that are under 10kW. The program is specifically designed for homeowners. A 10kW system is made up of 40 solar panels on a home’s roof. Most residential solar panel installations are between 5kW and 10kW.

The OPA is required to review the prices offered on an annual basis to ensure both ratepayer value and a fair return on investment. The rate for 2015 is 38.4¢ per kWh.

The new rate is 3% less than the 2014 rate. Rates paid for solar power have declined steadily since the program was first introduced.

As the market for solar power has increased across North America, equipment costs have declined. The government has designed the program to provide a fair rate of return for homeowners investing in solar equipment.

Solar Panel systems that are 5 - 10 kW in size are surprisingly affordable. Full installation costs are in the range of a new car. Banks are willing to finance the systems because of the guaranteed government contracts. Financing costs are below the revenue a system will produce. A 10 kW system will generate over $90,000 in revenue and produce an ROI of 10-13%.

Homeowners that install solar panels continue to pay the utility 7.5¢ to 13.5¢ per kWh for the hydro they use (depending on time of use). They sell the power their solar panels produce back into the grid for 38.4¢ per kWh for the next 20 years.

The government is willing to pay a premium price for solar power for several reasons. Solar Power production peaks on the hottest sunny days in the summer, just when air conditioners cause peak demand to occur. The alternative to solar power during these peak times is more power plants and more transmission lines. This is a very expensive proposition just to supply power at peak demand times. Solar Power is produced without emissions, so we have cleaner air. Solar Power is used locally (in your neighborhood), so it does not require extra infrastructure spending.

The microFIT program is set up so everybody wins. There has been an increasing number of homeowners wanting to take advantage of this investment opportunity and at the same time make a valuable contribution to the environment.

Before you can proceed with solar panels, there is an approval process. Most homeowners in urban areas can obtain approval. There are some rural areas that cannot accommodate more solar projects. Reputable contractors like The Hayter Group help homeowners with the approval process with no out-of-pocket costs.

In 2015 the OPA will be looking to add as much as 70MW in residential solar projects to the grid. This is made up of a 50MW annual target, plus some carry-forward from the previous year.

The general rule of thumb is that 1MW will power 1,000 homes. The province will be adding enough solar power projects in 2015 to power a small city. There will also be an opportunity for 1,000’s of homeowners to make a great investment and at the same time make a substantial contribution to the environment.

Chad Hayter, The Hayter Group

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Heating the Workshop

Take a drive around South-Western Ontario to see the fall colours and you’ll also notice a lot of new buildings going up. Farmers are investing in their operations, building new barns, workshops and drive sheds.

The increase in propane costs has lead to a lot of questions about how to heat these buildings more efficiently. The choices available for most rural operations are propane, electric, oil, geothermal and wood.

It might surprise people to see wood as one of the choices. We have a company right here in Ontario that is manufacturing wood hybrid furnaces. The name of the company is Napoleon (you many know them for their barbeques) and they have a modern plant in Barrie, Ontario.

A wood hybrid furnace combines wood with a backup fuel source of either oil, electric, natural gas or propane. If you are away for a few days, or run out of wood on a cold night, the backup fuel source kicks in automatically.

Many farms have large wood lots, that always have lots of dead trees. People like to burn wood. It’s more labour intensive, but avoids large fuel bills in the winter when money is not always coming in.

The new Napoleon wood hybrid furnaces are highly efficient. The natural gas or propane furnace they are paired with run at 96% efficiency. Wood efficiency is more difficult to measure, because it varies with the type and quality of the firewood.

A consideration before installing a wood hybrid furnace is that it will require a long-term commitment. Studies have shown that after 3 years, the average Canadian finds they don’t have the time or inclination to continue cutting firewood.

The best way to deliver heat to a workshop is through in-floor tubes. The best time to install these is when you pour the floor for your new shop. In-floor heating is inexpensive to install during construction of a new shop. It leaves you with all sorts of options for what fuel to heat the shop with.

In-floor heating is more comfortable in a workshop. Shops normally have high ceilings. The heat is delivered at the floor, where it is needed. You feel more comfortable at lower temperature settings with in-floor heating. That also saves you on fuel costs.

Boilers can use wood, propane, natural gas, oil or almost any combination you decide. You can also install a geothermal system.

Geothermal systems are the most expensive to install, but the most cost-efficient to run over the life of the equipment. Geothermal is also the most environmentally friendly choice. Geothermal systems can use in-floor tubing or forced air duct work.

Revenue Canada helps soften the blow of installing geothermal with accelerated depreciation schedules. You can write-off 79% of the entire system in three years, and all within 5 years.

The Hayter Group specializes in rural service and installations. Over 75% of the company’s business comes from rural customers. We are well established to service our rural clients from three locations (Chatham, Alvinston and Cambridge).