Tag Archives: CanSIA

Ontario’s Feed-in Tariff 2011 Program Review

It’s been a WHILE since posting and for that I apologize. There’s been a lot of cool (and time-consuming) stuff going on here. Like this, and this. We’re also in the process of setting up our largest internal test site to date, in Southern California. Info to be posted once it’s available.

What I wanted to talk about: today’s the last day that the OPA is accepting feedback on its Feed-in Tariff Program, and even though it’s late in the game, I thought I’d share one of our recommendations.

It’s definitely not the most pressing program change that’s needed. Sitting in on CanSIA’s Small, Large, and Manufacturer Working Groups, I can appreciate that  it probably doesn’t even fit on the top 30 of the pressing issues that the Program Review is set up to address. Even for us, a Domestic Content grid for CPV is something we want to see posted before this.

But, if you’re thinking long term, and for policies that could work beyond the Ontario border, here’s a modest suggestion:

Disclaimer: all credit for this idea comes from Glen Schrader, of Bright Ray Solar, our distributor in Ontario. Glen’s a smart guy, and he’s based in Guelph – being removed from the everyday-running-around that happens at 30 Ordnance probably also helps to see the big picture.

Recommendation: Allocate a portion of FIT contracts for new, innovative renewable technologies.

  1. Along with timely decisions on Domestic Content rules, allocating a portion of FIT contracts for new technologies lowers the barriers to entry that exist for them. Local markets are easiest to develop and new technology companies can use them to establish credibility.
  2. There is considerable value to new technology companies locating in the province, including IP, high-tech jobs, and the potential for export. New technologies should in principle also offer increased efficiencies, lower costs, higher peak-use generation, or added capabilities such as energy storage.
  3. These new technologies don’t necessarily have to be invented here, but they should be primarily developed here – and this itself could attract companies to start up here (like us, who chose to locate here for a number of different reasons).
  4. A carve-out for new technologies ensures that grid capacity will exist for these technologies, which take more time to reach high market penetration.
  5. Other incentives could also be considered to encourage project developers and/ or customers to deploy new technologies. The Province may be best suited to determine the correct policy response, but these could include rate adders (for generation whose key feature is not lower costs, i.e. energy storage, peak-use generation), or accelerated approvals.

Ontario will find it tough (not saying  impossible) to compete with China on the cost of manufacturing traditional silicon solar panels. Policymakers already realize the need to play to the province’s strength for innovation – be it in efficiencies, costs, energy storage or time of day generation. In the way it was set up, the FIT program essentially guaranteed rates for generation projects using technology developed in 2009 – what we need is rates, and other policies, for 2015 technology.

As always, your thoughts welcome.

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Solar Panel Installer Job Seekers in Ontario

I get quite a few emails a week for job seekers and I usually try to send more than just a simple “We”re not hiring right now” reply.  I love that people want to work in this industry and so I try to give a little advice where I can.  One of the groups of people that I hear from occasionally are people interested in being solar panel installers.  The following points are a distillation of the advice that I’ve given out.  (If you don’t want to be climbing up on rooftops, or don’t want to install solar farms, then this blog post might not be that useful to you.)

Know the Industry:

If you’re job hunting for a solar installer job, there are a few things you should really start with.  These might help you figure out where the opportunities are and if you’re lucky, might help you figure out who’s hiring.

  • Ontario’s Green Energy Act – Learn everything you can about the act, the Feed-In Tariffs, the job creation programs etc.  These programs are specifically being created to encourage green job creation, and the programs have been very explicitly designed to mimic successful programs in Germany, Spain and other regions.  The more you understand these programs, the more likely you’ll be able to figure out where the opportunities are and the better you can demonstrate that you’re the right employee for the job.  Some links:
    • The Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure Green Energy Act Page
    • OPA Feed-In Tariff Page – Very important.
    • Employment Ontario – Don’t just look for job postings and advice, learn about the different incentives.  If you’re a student, make sure you understand coop  and summer job incentives for employers.  If you’re looking for training or apprentiships, there are incentives there too.  Understand them.
  • FIT Rates – I’ve covered this in a recent post, and there are some links there to get you started.
  • Current Players – Figure out who’s actually doing solar panel installs.  If you want to get into home roof top, or solar farm work, figure out who’s already done it.  Look up the types of projects that have been done already – they’re the most likely to be expanding as solar installs increase.  This is partly research on your part, but the CanSIA member list above, and people who exhibit at Green and Solar shows are a good list.  The Toronto Green Living Expo is coming up in a few weeks – figure out who’s going to be exhibiting, sponsoring, and make sure you go.  (Hint, don’t take resumes and don’t ask people for jobs at the show, they’re busy and they’ll forget you.  Apply before, be friendly and treat the show itself as a networking event.)
  • Know the technology – I’m not going to put together a series of links here, but if you want to do rooftop, have an opinion about the major silicon panel manufacturers and thin films, different inverters, mounting schemes etc.  Also, look at micro inverters and wiring in parallel to solve shading issues and meters and grid tie issues.  Make sure you know the actual stuff you’ll be installing, and have specific knowledge of specific companies.
  • Understand the Basics of Solar Resource – Look up insolation, kWh/kw and understand panel efficiency.  Don’t just know electrician and roofing stuff (but know that too).  If you don’t know the latitude of the town you want to work in, and you can’t figure out the correct tilt for a panel, go learn.

Network, attend and visit

Solar Panels at Exhibition Place - This picture was taken last year when we helped out in some testing with the system on the Automotive Centre in Exhibition Place.

Solar Panels at Exhibition Place - This picture was taken last year when we helped out in some testing with the system on the Automotive Centre in Exhibition Place.

It’s tough out there, but fortune favours the prepared.  I wish I were hiring solar installers, but for now, other people are and more will be soon.  Good luck.

Meetings, meetings, meetings

Seems like it’s back to back meetings for the rest of this week, CanSIA Show and then some travel next week, and then another week of back to back meetings.  At least we’re going to be in Spain over Xmas, which will be nice, some relaxing sit down strategy sessions with John Paul and my dad, and by January things should have calmed down.

On another note, I thought the CanSIA Solar Conference had an expo only price and it doesn’t seem to – they want to charge people a full $500 conference pass, even if all you want to do is walk around the booths.  Doesn’t make sense to me at all, at the Solar Power International 2008 Conference you could get a discounted “expo only” pass, and on Wednesday they opened the doors to the public – a much better system I think.

Solar Energy Conference in Toronto

I just wanted to make sure people knew, we’re going to be exhibiting at the CanSIA Solar Conference 2008 in Toronto, at the Westin Harbour Castle, on December 8th and 9th.  I’ll be in the booth for most of both days, and I’d love it if people came by and said hello.

More info on CanSIA’s website.

It’s been busy around here, but we’ll see you there!