What is an application? An application alone is an expression of interest, not a finished project. With that said, it’s nonetheless encouraging to see the flood of applications come into the Ontario Power Authority’s renewable feed-in-tariff (FIT) program since its Oct. 1 launch. The applications, which if all of the projects are built amount to 8,000 megawatts, amount to 80 per cent wind-energy capacity, while 16 per cent of total megawatts are for solar capacity and the rest a combination of biogas/biomass and small hydroelectric. Of the nearly 2,200 applications received, roughly 1,200 are for projects less than 10 kilowatts in size, mostly rooftop solar. Already, 700 of those applications have been approved.
This is a great start for a province that has only peaked above 27,000 megawatts in its history. And these results exclude the huge potential for large offshore wind projects in Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, as well as some larger hydroelectric and pumped storage projects. Again, it’s easy to flag these applications and shout victory, but the hard work is ahead — getting these projects built and generating power for the grid, as well as getting the transmission built to accommodate them. At the moment, there’s only enough transmission capacity to accept about 2,500 megawatts, so shovel-ready projects in capacity-spare areas are being given top priority. If, however, we can get a majority of these projects online within the next few years that will be a major accomplishment as Ontario works toward its goal of phasing out coal power by 2014.