Archives for posts with tag: canada

I had the opportunity to go to PVSC 39 in Tampa, Florida with fellow Highly Qualified Personnel (HQP). There were a lot of interesting speeches but I will only focus on a couple of them here – particularly those focusing on CdTe thin films progress. CdTe is one of the most attractive materials for production of low cost thin film solar modules [1]. The record efficiency for CdTe solar cells has been established to be 16.7% for 10 years. In the past 2 years, the CdTe record was broken several times and increased from 16.7% to 18.7%. However, there has been no significant change in the open-circuit voltage which was in the range of 840-860 mV for over 20 years. Many arguments have been made to justify the apparent Voc limitation, most frequently: poor hetero-interface with CdS, the difficulty in doping polycrystalline CdTe, midgap defect levels, or non-uniformities at the nano- or micro-scale. Paths for open-circuit voltage above 900 mV are:

  • Doping: Increasing doping level of CdTe is believed to increase the built-in potential and reduce recombination at the back-surface. Present doping levels are of the order 1014 /cm3 and different ways are proposed to increase them.
  • Lifetime: Higher lifetime(s) are expected to be a sign of less recombination in the junction and quasi-neutral region, and, hence, improved Voc and carrier collection. With higher lifetime, it is expected that a greater fraction of the recombination may occur at the back-contact due to increased electron diffusion through the absorber.

Gloeckler from First Solar announced a new record efficiency of 19.1% for CdTe, although not yet certified by NREL.

Despite these promising results, the gap between solar cell and module efficiencies is still wide (3-5%) [2]. This so-called “solar gap” constitutes a major challenge for commercial viability of photovoltaics. One explanation, proposed by M. Alam and his group at the University of Purdue, says that the “solar gap” is due to the monolithic series connection of thin films that causes shunt leakage current. Analysis of the shunt leakage current show that an I-V curve can be modeled by the diode equation and the shunt current, which has a non-linear relation with the voltage, as shown in Fig. 1. It was shown by Alam et al, that as a consequence of the series connection of cells, large shunts have a twofold impact on module performance. First, they modify the operating point of their neighboring good sub-cells, thereby lowering their output power. Second, a large fraction of this (already reduced) power, generated by the neighbours, is consumed by the shunted sub-cell. Interestingly this phenomenon is not unique to CdTe photovoltaics but more of a universal phenomenon and studies on CdTe, CIGS, OPV and amorphous silicon thin films show the same behaviour. At PVSC they have described a post-deposition scribing technique for electrically isolating these distributed shunts in monolithic thin film PV modules. The localized scribes minimize the losses due to defective shunts by restricting lateral current drain from its (otherwise defect-free) neighbors.

Figure 1 of Ahmed's blog

Fig. 1 Measured IDark (squares) can be represented by a parallel combination of diode with series resistance I (green), and a parasitic shunt component (red), with a symmetric (around V = 0) non-Ohmic voltage dependence. Reproduced from [3] with permission of The Royal Society of Chemistry.


[1] W. N. Shafarman, “What’s next for Cu(InGa)Se2 Thin Film PV: Opportunities and Challenges”, 39th IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference, 2013

[2] S. Dongaonkar, M. A. Alam, “Reducing the Cell to Module Efficiency Gap in Thin Film PV using In-line Post-Process Scribing Isolation”, 39th IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference, 2013

[3] S. Dongaonkar, S. Loser, E. J. Sheets, K. Zaunbrecher, R. Agrawal, T. J. Marks, and M. A. Alam, “Universal statistics of parasitic shunt formation in solar cells, and its implications for cell to module efficiency gap,” Energy & Environmental Science, vol. 6, pp. 782–787, 2013

Ahmed Gabr's picture

-Ahmed Gabr

Ph.D Candidate, Year 3

SUNLAB, University of Ottawa

As Ontario’s flagship renewable energy (RE) incentive program, referred to as the Feed-in Tariff (FIT), enters its third review, it is an appropriate point to assess several recent political and policy changes which have implications for the next iteration of RE incentives. In my previous blog, I wrote about the challenges facing Photovoltaics (PV) with respect to the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) initial ruling against Ontario’s domestic content requirements, growing economic turbulence in the RE sector, political adjustments within the provincial Liberal party  as well as other industrial and policy factors that have created uncertainty surrounding the future deployment and development of PV in Ontario. These events have had lasting impacts on the prospects of PV and continue to influence future policy engagement. In conjunction with prior developments, there are new pressures and policy changes which will have serious implications for PV. Do these changes point to positive change for the future of PV?

Foremost among these pressures is the fallout around the WTO decision. In May 2013, the final ruling by the WTO stated that Ontario’s RE policy framework was in violation of international trade law[i]. The decision established that the domestic content requirement, which requires that developers source a certain percentage of RE system components from Ontario companies in order to be eligible for FIT incentives, contravenes international trade agreements. Without protection from international competition, PV companies who have invested in Ontario face an uncertain future. Will PV panel manufacturers be able to compete with Asian firms? Which parts of the PV value chain will Ontario firms occupy? Will we purchase technology from overseas and focus primarily on project installation? These are just some of the questions left unanswered as the government begins to reinvent the FIT.

The provincial government has already communicated significant changes to the FIT, which may portent further revisions presently being contemplated. In June 2013, the government announced that large RE projects (>500 kW) would no longer fall under the FIT mechanism[ii]. Instead, these projects would be contracted using a competitive procurement process. The details of this process have yet to be articulated. Moreover, the annual cap for FIT contracts has been reduced from 250 MW to 200 MW[iii]. Aside from the FIT, the political administration has also renegotiated its deal to procure a significant quantity of RE from Samsung, cutting the contract from 2,500 MW down to 1,369 MW[iv]. From this, it would appear that a deliberate effort is being made to slow further RE procurement and deployment in the province.

Political pressures are also quite notable. First there is the continued uncertainty arising from a minority government situation, where opposing parties have stated they would either abandon[v] or seriously redesign[vi] RE policies. Second, controversial gas plant cancellations continue to plague the governing party, casting shadows over the energy file and the commitment to RE deployment[vii]. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, there are still many unanswered questions regarding the future of nuclear energy in the province[viii]. If Ontario commits to build new nuclear reactors, there is little impetus to invest in RE and efficiency.

Together, the above factors indicate that there is increasing uncertainty surrounding the RE sector in the province. Recent developments suggest that Ontario is veering away from its commitment to an economy and energy system based on RE. So, the worst may have yet to come for PV in Ontario.

Danny Rosenbloom

Daniel Rosenbloom
Ph.D Candidate

Carleton University

My name is Bruno and I’m a postdoctoral fellow in the group of Michel Côté  at the University of Montréal. Our group focuses on developing “beyond ab initio” numerical methods in order to model organic molecules, polymers and interfaces for applications in organic photovoltaics.

Organic materials offer great promises for photovoltaic applications, mainly because they would be very cheap to produce. Indeed, we are constantly surrounded by plastics of various kinds, so there already exists a large chemical industry that can handle vats of the stuff. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just buy 100 square meters of rolled up photovoltaic plastic films at a local hardware store, unfurl it on the roof at home and get some of the Sun’s sweet power for (almost) free?

Well that’s still science fiction at this point but our group’s goal is to help make it happen. There are very many possible organic compounds and polymers,and exponentially more possible combinations which could do the trick. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack, really. My colleagues in organic chemistry tell me it takes a student one year to create a new compound; that’s a lot of resources lost if the compound turns out to be a dud. Chemists of course have great intuition, and can discard some unlikely candidates right away. However, it is not always so obvious from the start whether a given molecule will have all the right properties for photovoltaic applications; that’s where we come in.

It is much cheaper to simulate numerically the properties of a new candidate molecule than to actually cook it in the lab and then measure its properties. The theory behind those models isn’t perfect of course, and experimental measurements have the last word, but efficient simulation tools can allow us to scan large databases of candidates and discard the crazies, leaving only probable candidates for further investigation. The rub lies in having an algorithm which is precise
enough to be useful, but runs fast enough so we can simulate those large organic molecules! We have been working hard on developing such a method, and we hope
to produce exciting results soon!

Colleagues and I visited the group of Professor Holdcroft at Simon Fraser in Vancouver at the beginning of April (see our photojournal of the trip here ). From our very engaging discussions with Professor Holdcroft and his students emerged a fact well known to experimentalists, but perhaps sometimes glossed over by ab initio-ists such as myself: morphology is critical to good performance! Indeed, photovoltaic devices rely on bulk heterojunctions to harvest the Sun’s energy: an electron donor compound is mixed with an electron acceptor (often PCBM), forming an intricate network of domains at whose interfaces excitons must dissociate and through which charge carriers must percolate. Obviously the shape, size and orientations of these domains will affect device performance greatly, and knowing the energy levels of single molecules are not sufficient to fully characterize the performance one can hope to reach with a given device. Furthermore, the ideal material should self-assemble to the optimal geometry without excessive human intervention; the more complicated the steps that are needed, the higher the cost of the final product!

Therein lies a bit of a terra incognita for me. I think we can do a great job at predicting the properties of a single molecule or polymer, but how can we scale up our modeling, and use the appropriate microscopic information to predict the behavior of mesoscopic (or even macroscopic) devices? This is a topic I want to know more about! Thanks for reading, and it was great to see you all in Hamilton at the 2013 Next Generation Solar conference!

Bruno Rousseau

-Bruno Rousseau

Postdoctoral Fellow

Department of Physics, University of Montreal

How can one even begin to describe the APS March Meeting, the biggest material physics international conference of the year?

The sheer magnitude of a whole week with more than 40 simultaneous talks at all time can be vertiginous for its tens of thousands of attendees. Instead of spending this article on a ridiculously long exhaustive list of all the scientific results that were presented, I’ll instead concentrate on the biggest realization I’ve made during the week while preparing my talk. An underlying fact that everyone relates to, but few people ever talk about. The presence of faith in science.

Faith is a word that possesses a strong taboo in the scientific community. Indeed, science relies on verifiable, repeatable facts, and, most often than not, steps away from religion altogether. But faith isn’t really about religion. Faith is a great motivational tool, a strong emotion that scientists tend to forget all too quickly. Faith is at the core of everyone, and is indeed, at the core of science itself.

It’s not easy being a graduate student. One Ph.D. student out of two will never complete their studies. The pressure of one’s advisor or funding agencies to produce meaningful, useful and predictable results can be unbearable, and it’s very easy to lose track of your personal research when there are so many great people out here. And that’s where the paradox lies: there is no possible way to predict the results of scientific research. The hardest truth of all about science is that you don’t know what you’re searching for, or even where to find it.

But that’s where faith comes into play. Scientist as a career choice usually comes from a child’s faith in their desire to invent, to create, to understand and change the world. Every scientific experiment is rooted in faith in the outcome, or in the experiment’s success. Even mathematics as a whole, the very language of the universe, relies on faith in a few axioms on which we can build.

The popularity of networking or job search events at the March Meeting is simply ridiculous. With a great deal of chance and a lot of patience, I found myself participating in one of them in-between presentations. Even though the event was very interesting, there is one thing that couldn’t be shown in the pages of notes that I took, but yet was so visible I couldn’t not notice it: graduate students are scared. All of the ones present at the event, me included, were stuck into communicating in English, which wasn’t our first language. We had to interact constantly with dozens of people of all age and color, trying to befriend our competition and watch our public appearance; all while not knowing our place, our relevance, and for the most part, our future. The hardest challenge of all is the necessity to find faith when the universe seems forgetful and senseless. Because, as with love, it is possible to find unconditional faith without the need for a rational justification. Even for a scientist, whose whole job relies on finding rational justifications.

The good news is that the solution is everywhere. Science communication isn’t all about sharing information, filling forms, finding publishing deals, protecting patents and reading articles. At the core, it’s about meeting other people with similar interests. It’s about seeing passionate people ready to stand up to change the world on every level. People who to tell those who dare doubt them that they haven’t met them yet, and they haven’t met their friends. People talking about their dreams with stars in their eyes and excited about what the constantly uncertain future holds. It’s about people having faith, and trying to share it with the world.

Nicolas Berube

Nicolas Bérubé

Ph.D Candidate, Year 4

Department of Physics, University of Montreal

For a few years now, I have been following high impact research in the field of photovoltaics. I have read hundreds of scientific papers and performed complex calculations. However, I have to admit that I found most of this work relatively straightforward. As a scientist, I am highly interested in new results in my field, especially topics I don’t fully understand. Hence, learning the complexities in the field of renewable energy was second nature for me.

I am currently facing the hardest part of the Ph.D. in my opinion: the process of thesis writing. Initially, I had a lot of difficulty in starting to write since there were so many other things that needed to be done! I concluded that I wasn’t going to write efficiently if I didn’t find a solution. So I stopped my daily routine, sat down and thought about how I could increase my writing throughput. And this is what I want to discuss in this short blog. Instead of writing about my research within the field of photovoltaics in Canada, I decided to talk a little bit about my own writing process, wishing that it might help fellow graduate students in Canada, and even possibly abroad.

To help my writing process, I had to start somewhere. I began some preliminary research online, but it did not lead anywhere. I then decided to change my strategy. I decided to just sit down, and read a book. But it wasn’t any random book. It was “How to write a lot; A practical guide to productive academic writing” by Silvia [1]. I was expecting a long and arduous read. On the contrary, I was pleasantly surprised to find the book written in a personal tone, which made it entertaining and easy to read. It is short enough to be read fairly rapidly, but it is packed with motivating tips and rules to become a good writer. Even though it is written by an academic psychologist, it is applicable to pretty much any field. I believe this book was the turning point in writing my thesis.

The book focuses on many writing topics, but the one I found most important part was creating a writing schedule so as to allocate blocks of time to write during each week. Before I read this book, I usually managed my time another way: I would enter the lab at 9am, sit down, and write a list of things to do for the day. For the last few months, there was always ‘to-do’ point that kept coming back to haunt me: “Start writing the infamous thesis”. However, the actual ‘to-do’ list always seems to be too long as there is so much lab work to be done; I have gradually developed a lot of responsibilities in the research group over the years fixing instrumentation, calling companies, lab mates stopping by to ask questions about general scientific problems, meetings to attend, papers to read, etc… So adding “Write thesis” to the “to-do” list every day achieved nothing. The key to my success was to change this behavior.

I decided to use the author’s advice: before doing anything in your workday, schedule 2 hours of writing. Hence, between 8 and 10am, I sit down in front of my computer at home and simply write. This made a huge difference. Forcing myself to follow a planned, scheduled writing time changed everything. Being isolated helped a lot, since working around my colleagues is very distracting. To make those writing sessions more efficient, I had to take it a step further. I personally programmed my computer to not have access to the internet during those hours. Getting lost in your emails and various websites is so easy these days, and with my tendency of having an attention deficit does not help. At the beginning, I thought that I needed the internet to write the thesis. After taking this drastic measure, I realised that it was both true and untrue. I actually know most of the important information to write my thesis on the top of my head. What I need to do is to write as much as I can during the 2 hours session, and note any parts that need some online research. I then write these points on my ‘to-do’ list for the day. Using this schedule, I realised that I was doing as much work in the lab as before, but with the added benefit that my thesis was advancing more quickly than I had initially expected.

One problem that I often faced when I was in undergrad was the ‘blank page syndrome’. I could watch the white computer screen for hours before starting to write. This time, it was different. I didn’t wait for the inspiration to come; I actually forced it on myself. Even though I had no idea what to write, I just wrote freely on the subject. Then, the inspiration came after a few paragraphs. And I have to admit that I was surprised on how the first draft was not as horrible as I was expecting. After a while, I started using a few tricks that worked well for me. Since I consider myself a good communicator, I started using this particular talent for the writing process. To organize my thoughts and the flow of each chapter in my thesis, I am creating a PowerPoint presentation just like I would present for a conference. I then write the chapters much like I would present in front of a crowd of scientists. I just have to edit to make it readable and professional.

I have to admit that here, on a computer screen, it might sound easy. It is not. And I realised that the motivation is probably the biggest driving factor in the writing process. We are human after all, and a little reward is always good. Hence, I decided that I would have the right to a very good bottle of wine after the final touches of each chapter. That makes 5 bottles for the Ph.D. thesis; a good reward in my opinion.

In this adventure that is the Ph.D, I have been very lucky to be a part of the PVIN network with plenty of very interesting people. I am certain that I am not the only one in the Network who is in the writing process. I hope these few tips might help some of you!

Olivier Theriault

Olivier Thériault

Ph.D Candidate, Year 4

Sunlab, University of Ottawa



[1]. Silvia, Paul J. “How to write a lot: A practical guide to productive academic writing.” American Psychological Association (2007).

I recently attended the 2013 Materials Research Society’s (MRS) Spring Meeting from April 1st  to 5th in San Francisco, California. The MRS brings together members of industry, academia, and government to discuss the latest in materials research across a wide variety of disciplines. There were 56 parallel technical sessions, an exhibit, and a wide variety of tutorial sessions taught by leading scientists and engineers.  I presented a poster entitled, “Flux engineering for height dependent morphological control of branched nanowires” in a section focused on nanostructured semiconductors and nanotechnology. I attended talks primarily focused on nanowire growth and applications. Numerous talks focused on the use of nanowires in photovoltaic devices that I believe are of interest to the Canadian Photovoltaic Innovation Network.  Here I will briefly discuss a couple of highlights.

Results from a paper recently published in Science detailing high performance solar cells consisting of nanowire arrays were presented by a member of The Nanostructure Consortium at Lund University in Sweden.1  P-i-n junction indium phosphide nanowire arrays were employed in the devices, resulting in a maximal efficiency of 13.8% at one sun. InP nanowires have extremely low surface recombination velocities, removing the need for surface passivation as required by nanowire composed of alternative materials (such as Si). Interestingly, the devices exhibited short circuit current densities at 83% of the highest performance planar InP cells, while only covering 12% of the surface (as compared to 100% surface coverage in planar devices). The authors concluded that ray optics is not suitable to model the interaction of light with subwavelength nanostructures due to resonant light trapping. As a result, the authors suggested that nanowire PV devices could potentially reduce the amount of material required to fabricate cells by producing photocurrents comparable to planar devices.

An interesting talk entitled, “Band-gap and structural engineering of semiconductor metal oxides for solar energy conversion,” described the use of 1-D nanostructures (nanowires) to serve as direct pathways for charge extraction in dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs).2 In this work, zinc oxide (ZnO) nanowires were used due to their high electron mobility. In a typical nanoparticle film, electrons undergo “zig-zag” transport, increasing transport time and the probability for recombination or trapping. As a result, much of the generated charge carriers are not collected, leading to low performance. Direct “straight-line” conductive pathways are provided for electrons by implanting ZnO nanowires into the nanoparticle film. As a result, charge collection efficiency is significantly improved.  The implementation of ZnO nanowires improved efficiency in DSSC devices by 26.9% in the best performing device.


1. Wallentin, J. et al. Science 339, 1057, (2013).

2. Bai, Y. et al. Advanced Materials 24, 5850, (2012).

Allan Beaudry

-Allan Beaudry

Ph.D Candidate, Year 2

Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, University of Alberta


David Brochu – Vice President Development, North America, Recurrent Energy

F. Michael Cleland – Nexen Executive in Residence, Canada West Fountation

Senator Grant Mitchell – Vice Char, Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, Liberal Senator, Alberta, Senate of Canada

Jon Kieran – Director, Development, EDF, EN Canada Inc.

Christian Vachon – President, Enerconcept Technologies

CanSIA concluded with a panel discussion on the development of a national energy strategy. The panelists consisted of David Brochu of Recurrent Energy, F. Michael Cleland of Nexen, Senator Grant Mitchell, Jon Kieran of EDF EN and Christian Vachon of Enerconcept. All members of the panel had the opportunity to express their opinions on how we need to proceed as a nation towards developing our energy strategy.

Four years ago Canada entered the Kyoto protocol in an effort to curb human-generated green house gas (GHG) emissions. Entering Kyoto was a move in the right direction for Canada, but ultimately we developed an unrealistic plan that we could not uphold. After failing to meet target reductions of GHG’s, Canada withdrew from the Kyoto protocol at the end of 2011. Canada needs to learn from its mistakes and work on developing a national energy strategy that will benefit Canadians.

What would a national energy strategy look like, and how would we get there? We could start by increasing engagement and advocation for development of an energy strategy for Canada. Promotion of open discussion to define what is important to Canadians in a energy strategy needs to occur. Why do we need a national energy strategy?  How much do we focus on making renewables a central part of our energy policy? Should we be putting a price on carbon, and would a carbon tax hurt Canada? How can we focus on the longevity and long term views of an energy strategy for Canada? There are many questions to be answered with no readily apparent solutions.

Where do solar energy and other alternative energy sources fit within Canada’s national energy strategy? Following the success of the feed in tariff (FIT) and micro-FIT programs, Canada has developed FIT 2.0  which will put another 160MW of solar energy online. The arrival of FIT 2.0 was not a surprise, but we will likely be seeing less government subsidy of solar projects. We cannot be reliant on a technology that requires subsidy to be sustainable. Fortunately, we have already seen instances where solar energy can be produced at grid parity. With the dropping prices of solar energy and the ever escalating price of non-renewable energies, it is essential for solar to be a large part of Canada’s energy strategy. With the help of the FIT programs, Canada aims to be recognized as a leader in the installation and manufacturing of solar modules.

Canada needs to sculpt an energy strategy that can drive our economy, promoting growth in an underdeveloped sector. An energy strategy that will advance job growth within Canada, and ultimately will lead to a more sustainable country.


-Matthew Schuster


Queens University

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