Solar Company Seeks Projects in Middlesex & Oxford Counties

March 24, 2010 at 2:28 pm Leave a comment

A California company is prospecting for solar energy in Ontario, including six sites in Middlesex and Oxford counties. Recurrent Energy, based in San Francisco, has applied to install 49 megawatts of solar power in Southwestern Ontario. All told, Recurrent is looking to install 180 megawatts of solar power in 33 projects on 22 Ontario sites, said David Brochu, vice-president development for the Eastern Region of North America. “You’re probably talking $800 (million) to $900 million of total construction costs,” if all 33 were to be approved, Brochu said Tuesday from his office in Chicago.

Recurrent has applied for provincial approval for six area solar installations: one west of Strathroy; one between Delaware and Komoka, west of London; three east of London near Dorchester and Putnam; and one near Ingersoll.

Brochu hopes to receive word on Recurrent’s applications in about a month. To be eligible for subsidy under the Green Energy Act, renewable projects must have at least 40% or 60% Ontario manufactured content, the amount depending on whether they’re online before or after 2011. These applications say the company could start construction on approved projects late this year and have the solar arrays operating by mid-2011.

Southwestern Ontario has become fertile ground for solar applications of all sizes. The largest locally, and probably the largest on the continent, is First Solar in Sarnia, where 20 megawatts are online now and another 60 megawatts in the works. The “sweet spot” size for Recurrent is in smaller arrays of 2-10 megawatts each, Brochu said. That’s partly because the highest Ontario subsidies are for systems smaller than 10 megawatts and partly because smaller systems are more easily connected directly into transmission lines nearer to urban populations.

Several of the proposed Recurrent sites are identified as being on good agricultural land, when the FIT program requires poorer farmland only be used. That concerned Adelaide Metcalfe Mayor John Milligan during a Middlesex County council meeting Tuesday. “I don’t have a problem if it’s rock or gravel pit,” Milligan said in an interview. “Solar power, as far as we’re concerned, shouldn’t take prime agricultural land out of production.”

That’s also a view shared by neighbours to a proposed solar farm near Belmont who say First Solar should not be considering locating on some of the best agricultural land the region has to offer, even though it appears First Solar’s application predates the FIT program’s site criteria. But Brochu said Recurrent Energy proposals wouldn’t take good farmland out of production, as the topography on some sites would preclude farming.

He said the company has worked with soil scientists, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs and the Ontario Power Authority to winnow its sites to locations that would otherwise not be productive. One proposed site, near Thorndale, is reclaimed quarry.

Recurrent was recently named one of the 10 most innovative energy companies of the year by Fast Company magazine!



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