Ontario to offer power contracts to 232 MW of mid-sized solar projects

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On Wednesday, the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) in Ontario announced that it will award long-term contracts to 241 MW of renewable energy projects, including 232 MW of solar projects, under its FIT 4 program.

Projects 10-500 kW in capacity are eligible for the program, which IESO describes as a feed-in tariff. And while the program does offer long-term contracts with standardized program rules, prices and contracts, it contains elements of a competitive solicitation in that applications gain improve their chances of being selected by reducing the price.

Ontario has three programs for renewable energy procurement: The Large Renewables Procurement (LRP), an auction system for projects above 500 kW, the MicroFIT, which resembles a European feed-in tariff and is restricted to projects below 10 kW, and the FIT, which is appears to be a hybrid of the two.

IESO notes that most of the 907 solar projects awarded will be located on the roofs of commercial, industrial, municipal and institutional buildings. The average project size awarded is 256 kW.

The 936 renewable energy projects awarded also included a small number of bioenergy, wind and waterpower projects. Of these 936, more than 10% had aboriginal participation, 44% had municipal or public sector participation and 20% had community participation. All three are goals of the FIT program, and projects with such participation received priority.

Of the 1,702 applications received for the program, 1,197 passed the completeness and eligibility review, and the large majority of these were awarded contracts.

Ontario is already experiencing conflicts between high levels of wind and distributed solar PV which were installed under previous versions of the province’s feed-in tariff program and pre-existing nuclear generation. This has resulted in negative wholesale electricity prices and moderate levels of curtailment for both renewable and nuclear generation, as revealed in a recent IESO report on grid reliability.

However, this has not caused the province to stop procuring more PV. Ontario’s FIT 5 procurement is expected to being by November 1, and IESO says that it will issue draft FIT 5 documents in coming weeks.