Solar panel projects OK’d

PARIS – Brant County's foray into the renewable energy business is continuing in a partnership with Six Nations on two solar panel projects.

County council approved this week a contract from the Ontario Power Authority for contracts under the Feed-In-Tariff program to build a 240-kW roof-mounted solar panel project at the site of BGI Graphics in the Brant Business Park, off Rest Acres Road.

A staff report from Michael Bradley, general manager of corporate services, pegs the capital budget at $292,000. Under the terms of the contract, BGI will own a 55% share, Brant will own 30%, and Six Nations will hold 15%.

Council has also approved a FIT contract from the OPA for a 500-kW roof-mounted project at the Oneida Business Park at Six Nations. Six Nations will own 90% of the project; the county 10%.

Brant Renewable Energy will be contracted to manage the development of the projects.

They will be financed initially using short-term debt, with the final determination of financing being either through long-term debt or using county funds, Bradley's report says.

The financing is written pending the outcome of council's decision to seek potential buyers for Brant County Power Inc., which has been handling the microFIT and FIT contracts.

The projects will see a 7.8% annual return investment. The present net value is $372,880. The returns will be shared proportionately by each of the partners. After debt servicing, they are expected to generate about $54,000 a year for the county, the report says.B

As Brant Renewable Energy begins the project builds, it will use local contractors from the county and Six Nations. BRE also will engage members of the Six Nations community in the projects as a skills building opportunity.

The two project contracts approved by the OPA are the latest to get the nod with Brant as a partner.

Brant has developed a winning track record with its FIT applications, partly due to its ability to capitalize on a point system used by the OPA, which includes a clause that gives preference to projects with participation from First Nations communities and co-operatives.

Overall, Brant's move into renewable energy has been progressing well, Bradley said in an interview.

It has 15 projects to is credit. It has 11microFIT projects of 10-kW or less production under its belt using a combinations of rooftop-mount panels on municipal buildings and ground-mounted panel on vacant municipal properties.

Altogether Brant has four FIT projects, including one in partnership with the Sustainability Brant Community Energy Co-operative Inc. for the Brant Sports Complex, another at the South Dumfries Community Centre, and the two just approved.

“What has attracted interest in Brant is that there is more of a market for solar projects in rural communities, particularly with ground-mounted ones,” said Bradley.

“It helps that solar energy is a relatively benign form of technology.”

Another major factor, he said, is that in its strategic plan approved in 2011, county council called for the generation of new revenue sources, which coincided with the release of the Ontario government's FIT program.

Another ingredient has been consistent success, said Bradley.

“Our returns on microFIT have met or exceeded expectations, and it's gained confidence for the larger FIT projects.”