The Ontario Power Authority (OPA) says applications for rooftop solar projects have dominated the third round of its feed-in tariff (FIT) program. Nearly 1,700 applications were received for the FIT 3.0 procurement window, which ran Nov. 4 through Dec. 13 of last year. According to the OPA, rooftop solar applications accounted for 1,366 submissions – more than 75% of those received.
The OPA is currently reviewing applications submitted during this period for completeness and eligibility. Those that pass muster will be ranked according to a priority score and tested for transmission and distribution availability.
According to John Cannella, OPA spokesman, the agency will award up to 123.5 MW in FIT 3.0 contracts in the next window, which will open in the second quarter of this year.
The OPA also accepted applications for the new Unbuilt Rooftop Solar Pilot program, which has a separate procurement target of 15 MW. The OPA received 184 applications for this program, representing a total of 45 MW.
FIT 3.0 applications are for renewable energy projects – solar, wind, waterpower and bioenergy – with a proposed capacity of more than 10 kW and up to 500 kW.
Large-scale projects – exceeding 500 kW – are no longer eligible under the province's revamped FIT. Such utility-scale projects must go through a competitive procurement process, which Ontario is currently finalizing.
Michael Weizman, a partner at law firm McCarthy Tetrault, says several market factors have influenced the number of rooftop solar applications." The scalable nature of the technology and a price tariff that offers rooftop solar projects the highest prices were significant factors," he says.
Others suggest that FIT 3.0 represents a clever way to gain broader participation amongst a wide variety of stakeholders.
In fact, municipalities, aboriginal communities and community organizations accounted for nearly 80% of applications received, notes the OPA.
"It's an attempt to broaden public support for the FIT program by encouraging small projects," says Andrew Chant, managing director of renewable energy at Ortech Consulting.
Chant points out that electricity in Ontario remains a hot-button political issue. From the government's standpoint, nearly 1,800 applicants are an indicator of the number of voters who are going to be immune to higher power prices.
"This broadening of support for the FIT program, while minuscule in terms of the overall population of the province, may be a shift in sentiment," he says.
Last year, the OPA also said it would give a higher priority to renewable energy projects with aboriginal, municipal, community and public sector participation, as well as for those that demonstrate support from local municipal councils.