Applying For A microFIT Solar Contract

To date in our continuing series on our possible participation in the Ontario Power Authority’s microFIT renewable energy program we have written about receiving the OurPower on-line solar site assessment, the visit from one solar installation vendor and last time the details of his written solar site assessment for our home.

Here’s the thing; we do not have a contract or agreement with any solar power installation vendor.

Yet, a few days ago I went ahead and submitted the microFIT on-line application for our home.

Why?

First, simply completing the microFIT on-line application for your home does not legally, morally or ethically commit you to any one vendor or even require you to proceed with the installation of a solar installation on your roof.

Then why did I do it?

Well, a few reasons.

One, the current 40% Ontario domestic content requirement goes up to 60% for any microFIT solar installations which are commissioned (that is, which are turned on) after December 31, 2010. My thinking is that requiring more components to be built in Ontario will not make the cost of the solar installation go down; if anything, it will make the cost of the solar installations go up and cost me more. I received one example from a solar installation vendor where to purchase an inverter (the piece of equipment which converts the type of electricity generated by the solar panels into the type which can go through the electric meter and out into the electric transmission grid) will cost $800 more to purchase from an Ontario based manufacturer.

Did I see the receipts to audit or verify this claim? No.

However, pure logic, at least economic and financial logic, indicates that if there has to be an Ontario domestic content rule as part of the microFIT program then less costly yet similar quality products are likely to be found outside the Province.

Second, depending on what you read, it is taking anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 months for a microFIT application to be approved. You do not need this approval in order to commit to a solar installation vendor. However, with what has happened to many ground based microFIT installations, the land owners went ahead, paid money to the installation vendors and some even completed apparently their ground based installation prior to receiving the conditional microFIT contract from the OPA. Currently, out of the blue the OPA indicated they are reducing the rate from 80.2 cents to 58.8 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity generated.

I cannot afford to legally commit to paying any installation vendor for a roof top solar installation while the Ontario Power Authority has legal right to reduce the amount of money they will pay me for each kilowatt hour of electricity my solar installation would generate.

Yet, you do not have to have a legal contract with any solar installation vendor in order to complete the microFIT on-line application. You simply need to complete the form, indicate the proposed size of your solar installation in kilowatts (for which I used the proposed size from the one solar installation vendor written quote we received), the type of your renewable energy project and a few other details.

So, a few days ago I went ahead and submitted a microFIT application because:

  • it can take up to 3 months before the microFIT conditional contract (when the OPA is legally as far as I understand it) committed to guaranty the rate they will pay for their 20 year contract,
  • the Ontario Domestic Content increases from 40% to 60% after 31-DEC-2010 so to wait much longer could put my microFIT solar installation completion date into 2011 and thus higher cost for me,
  • I am not legally obligated to do anything if I do receive a conditional microFIT contract,
  • it costs nothing to submit the on-line microFIT application, and
  • the one on-line assessment referenced earlier from the non-profit organization plus the one on site installation vendor solar assessment both indicate that my financial rate of return would be between 11 and 15% (more about that next time).

We’ll see how long it takes to receive our conditional microFIT contract from the OPA.

One thing. When you do complete the on-line applications there are a couple of things you need to just take note of:

  • The on-line help for Item 11, the address of the proposed microFIT project, indicates you do not have to complete it if the address is the same as your home. Well, when you press the Submit button the system came back and said I had to complete it anyway.
  • When you do press the Submit button (after completing all the details and placing check-marks in the three check-boxes in Section 3, Declaration, the system does not give you a message that your application was successfully submitted. It looks like nothing happened.
    • You do receive within seconds an email to your email address on the application that your submission was received.

Next time, we will go over the financial details of the one quote we received and the answers to some of the questions we asked in order for you to have a better understanding, especially if you are like us and the whole solar power thing is new to you.

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