Photovoltaic Panels Bringing Green Electricity to Market

Photovoltaic Panels Coming Near You

A couple of weeks ago in my Toronto Star column I wrote about a new city home that boasts just about every alternative energy and high efficiency feature you can think of. There are more than 50 in all, but the one that’s probably most significant is the photovoltaic panels on the roof. They generate electricity that gets fed back into the grid, earning the homeowner money at 80.2 cents per kWh. That’s 1000% higher than the current market rate for electricity sold by the utility to customers, and it’s a deal that’s guaranteed by the government for 20 years. As far as I know, Ontario is a world leader in this kind of kickstart alternative energy strategy, and the policy is doing what it’s intended to. In my area of the province – one of the sunniest in all of Canada – 10 kW arrays of sun-tracking photovoltaic arrays are springing up in the countryside. An electrician friend I know tells me that the technology he’s installing for people isn’t exactly flawless at this stage. Some of it comes from Europe, and the differences in standards and practices there make for some interesting technological challenges here in Canada. There are bumps, yes. And there’s always room to complain about exactly how our government is encouraging the transition to solar energy. But there are two key issues as I see it. First of all, the days of cheap fossil fuels are numbered. And second, if we wait for a market-driven rise in prices to spur innovation and installation of energy alternatives, we’ll have a long, cold and expensive wait until alternatives like solar become mainstream.

I have a lifelong interest in alternative energy, and I’ll be helping you understand the shifting technology, evolving government policies and real-world applications right here. After all, we’re in this together.

Posted on December 18th, 2010