| Dec 17, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - December 17, 2009 Making the SWITCH to green can make you some green bucksby Julie Druker

Andy Mills and Mark Gibson of SWITCH

On Dec. 10 the Frontenac Community Futures Development Corporation, as part of their series of small business workshops, offered a free information/small business workshop to home and small businesses owners interested in how to earn money from their homes, farms or businesses by taking advantage of the Ontario government’s new Green Energy Act, Bill 150, which was passed on May 14, 2009.

The workshop was presented by Mark Gibson and Andy Mills representatives of Kingston-based SWITCH -The Sustainable Energy People, a not-for-profit network of members aiming to “position the South Eastern Ontario region as a leading centre of sustainable energy”.

Founded in 2002, SWITCH operates under a volunteer board of directors and, their focus is to create a local concentration of industrial, commercial, investment research and educational activities in sustainable energy by providing services that include networking, technical advice, project facilitation and much more.


Thursday night’s workshop titled “The New Green Energy Act: How Your Rooftop and Property Can Work For You” focused on the ins and outs of how home and business owners can benefit from the FIT and microFIT programs launched in Oct. 2009.

These programs allow small scale producers of sustainable energy, including solar, wind, hydro, bio mass and bio gas to supply and sell their extra energy back to the local power utility under a 20-year contract at rates that according to SWITCH are “currently some of the most attractive rates in the world.”

With this incentive in place, prospective participants still need to do research.

If wind is your thing, does your property get enough? If hydro, is the drop and flow high enough and are there any environmental concerns?

There are 4 different classifications of solar-powered systems. Factors such as the amount of energy being generated, the location of the system and how much input the grid can handle are all important considerations and will determine the pay back at the end of the day.

Those who do not have the financial wherewithal or simply don’t have the desire to install a system still have the option of leasing their land or roof tops to someone who does.

What has perked up the ears of many land and business owners in the area is the microFIT program for small-scale systems.

An example of a small-scale solar system was presented at the workshop. Approximately 50 2’x 3’ solar panels that would take up less than one barn roof, producing less than 10 KW and be eligible for a contract with the Ontario Power Authority at a rate of 80.2 cents per kw/hour. Consumers currently pay 8-10 cents per kw/hour. Those numbers may be a good enough reason for reconsidering the future of that old barn.

The best kind of roof for solar is one that is structurally sound, with no shade producing trees nearby, preferably south facing and with a slope between 25 and 45 degrees. Surprisingly, fully east or west facing roofs are only 15-20% less efficient than a south-facing roof.

Other benefits to a small-scale solar system are that it is practical and easy to install and the approval and connection process is quick. The original cost could be paid off in 10-12 years and will continue to generate income for 30-40 years.

Another interesting fact mentioned was that Kingston receives on average 1200 hours of sun per year where as Germany only gets on average 900 hours.

The presentation covered financing as well. Currently TD Canada Trust will finance costs at 5%, which is at a variable rate. Presenter Mark Gibson said, “ We think that it’s a great start but not the place to end up and we think that because this is such a safe investment that it should be more in line with a mortgage. We are still working on that.”

The allowable rate of depreciation for a new system is 3% per year and insurance costs run roughly at 0.1% -0.3% of the systems value per year. Similarly there are no foreseen increases in income tax to your property and you only pay tax on your net income after expenses.

Local alternative energy system and parts providers will also benefit from the FIT and microFIT programs since Ontario content regulations for the programs require 25% of wind, 40% of small solar and 50% of large solar installations be sourced in Ontario (which can include materials and /or installation). This is great news for local providers such as Eco Alternative Energy of Sharbot Lake and Renewable Energy of Plum Hollow of Kingston, whose owners were both present at the presentation.

For more information and/or to become a member of SWITCH please visit www.switchontario.ca

SWITCH holds regular monthly meetings on the first Friday of each month and the locations are listed on their website.

For more coverage on the Green Energy Act please see the News’ article of Mar.19, 2009 titled, “Green Energy Act Has Supporters and Detractors”.

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