Archives for the month of: March, 2013

Ian MacLellan, President and CEO, Ubiquity Solar Inc.
Nic Morgan
, Co-founder and VP Business Development, Morgan Solar
Jan Dressel, President & Managing Director, SPARQ Systems Inc
Ray Morgan, Director Outreach, PV/Solar & Semiconductor, SEMI Americas
Rafael Kleiman, Professor, Director, McMaster University
Clemens van Zeyl, CEO & Co-Founder, ARDA Power Inc.

Picture from Ahmed's blog


An interesting panel discussion took place on innovation. The panel discussed the meaning of innovation from different points of view. Everyone agreed that Solar is happening faster than everyone expected. In 2001, it was predicted that the world market for new installations in 2010 would be 2.8GW. In 2006, the prediction was increased to 5.5GW. The actual result for new installations in 2010 was 16.8GW. According to PV experience curve, PV module price is estimated to be as low as $0.15/W by 2050. For more information, check out the white paper issued by CanSIA here.

Innovation trends for PV:

  • Silicon is and will continue to be the main PV technology, giving a hard time to thin film technology.
  • Organic PV might be a player in 20-30 years for specific applications
  • Improving reliability in manufacturing yield and PV life time
  • Integration of solar systems in commercial buildings by removing the inverter, ie: DC power lines as most instruments work on DC.

Finally, to go the last mile in innovation, it has to be on the system level!

Ahmed GabrAhmed Gabr

PhD Candidate, 2nd Year

SUNLAB – University of Ottawa



Advantages of community ownership include:

–        better support from citizens for solar and in particular incentive programs

–        opportunity to educate citizens on renewable energy

–        citizens who are more aware of their own energy usage and often undertake energy efficiency measures.

–        51% of renewable energy in Germany is community owned (includes both direct ownership and cooperatives).  There are many RE coops in Europe, e.g. Belgian coop with 40,000 members.

Jon Worren – partnership between developers and coops for “set-aside” in FIT2.0 will involve 51+% ownership by community group, but <50% voting rights for the community group, and creation of a Special Purpose Vehicle.  OPA wants the developers to manage it.  There are some big cultural differences between developers and community groups, seeing as this is new territory and the applications need to be sorted out very quickly, these partnerships are akin to “shot-gun” marriages.

–        No further advice or decisions on how sound partnerships should be created was discussed by the expert panel – it seems a new, unknown space!

Mike Brighan – TREK now has offering statement approved.  Have 400 members, raised 500K in 5yr bonds at 5% in a few weeks, this is with a very established and forewarned member base.  Have access to 12M$ “angel debt financing” to cover gaps between payments to the project and when capital is raised.  Are paying a premium to developers to bring them projects, purchasing turn-key from them.   Advocates their “non-profit” model, where profits in excess of 5% go to education and outreach.

Joan Haysom – OREC one of first to get offering statement approved.  Model it to sell 20 yr preference shares with an intended return of 5%.  Raise $1M during 9 weeks of the summer 2012, and have now signed agreements for 5 micro-FITs on housing coops, and a joint venture part ownership of a 250kW nearly signed, All to be built in next 1-6 months, producing revenue in 2013.  Have several projects in development for FIT2.0.  Preferred approach is 100% ownership, but have considered alternatives.  In future we will look at non-Fit opportunities and other renewable energy technologies.

Kris Stevens – He advocates for the window to be open long enough (2 months) to give community groups enough time to collect affidavits related to proof of community ownership and undertake sufficient due diligence on these projects and partnerships.

-Joan Haysom, Solar Energy Project Manager at Centre for Research in Photonics, University of Ottawa

Joan Haysom

In Ontario, solar power makes the most economic sense when it is close to the source of consumption.  However, since the burden of transmission costs are directly on the consumer, companies have exploited government subsidies and the low cost of uninhabited land.  Despite this situation, the microFIT program has been enormously successful.

The response of local distribution companies to the FIT program has been mixed, but it seems to be for reasons unrelated to the company’s desire or lack thereof to implement renewable energy technology.  For example, Toronto Hydro has connected 97% of all FIT applications demonstrating that the program is very achievable.  However, other LDCs (local distribution companies) have not done the same.  One reason for this is that he entire infrastructure of Ontario’s power network is very large, old and heavily regulated.  Just recently, transmission lines installed in 1926 have been replaced.  It’s not that old lines such as these don’t fulfill their intended function; it’s that in the past, the entire system was designed to transmit very large amounts of power from stations like Darlington and Niagara Falls over long distances to into the GTA.  The systems were also designed to last and so it often doesn’t make sense to immediately replace them whenever slightly better technology becomes available.  Of course, newer LDCs will be able to accommodate more FIT applications.  But this shouldn’t reflect badly on older LDCs which can’t immediately accommodate applications.  These newer systems are designed with newer technology and the application of intermittent renewable energy technology in mind whereas older systems are not.

As an aside, energy investments are typically amortized over 20+ years.  So this has not historically been a fast paced industry like the electronics industry where your computer will become obsolete within a year.  Module costs are in fact falling at a rate beyond expectations.  However, adoption of solar power into existing infrastructure can be slow for economic and technical reasons.  This effect is compounded by the domination of current power generation incumbents like oil, natural gas, nuclear, and hydro.

It seems like solar power will inevitably play a significant role in the world’s energy mix.  However, unlike the latest smart phone which is sold by the millions within days, adoption of solar power will, by the nature of energy investments, be slower in comparison.

-Nathaniel Tanti, M.ASc

Nathaniel's Picture