The 3rd Line of Bradford is in many ways unremarkable. It is almost the shortest road in the town (the 2nd line would hold that distinction) tucked mainly between County Road 27 and Hwy 400. In 1984, the 3rd line made the news as part of tornado alley that stretched from Arthur to Lake Simcoe. Resided by a number of local farmers and rural homes, the 3rd Line has kept a pretty low profile.
But things are in the process of shifting. The 3rd Line of Bradford is in the process of becoming a power-line, one might say, of green energy. If you’ve driven around both the urban and rural parts of Bradford, you’ve seen the solar PV panels mounted on roofs and trackers. They’ve been showing up on the 3rd Line as well. With about 36 KW of solar PV currently installed over 3 properties, 20 KW of these on ours, these almost ignorable installations provide power for about 9 average homes. These are systems installed at the owners expense as part of Ontario’s Feed-In Tariff (FIT) Program. And the 3rd Line has only just started.
Working with the Simcoe County Community Energy Co-op, two property owners have tentative contracts to install an additional combined 140 KW of roof mounted solar PV on the third Line. That is enough to power an additional 35 average homes bringing the total up to 44 homes. According to Google Maps, the 3rd Line has 34 homes.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t know the total power consumption on the 3rd Line. There are a number of farms, business, etc. that will consume more energy than an average home. Here is the point; the 3rd line is well on its way to generating most if not all the electricity it uses. Now that is pretty remarkable.
I could provide the amount of CO2 that is offset though this generation of green energy and a number of other environmentally related statistics related to these installations, but that is not the point of this article. I could have interviewed the individuals involved about how they went into these projects specifically to save the planet, but I know that won’t be the whole truth. In most cases we all want to do our part to make a significant impact, but we often are not offered a way to do exactly that. Yes we may sort our recyclables, drive a smaller car maybe even a hybrid. The fact is that as much as many of us wanted to get involved in these types of projects, the Green Energy Act and the resulting FIT and MicroFIT programs made them financially viable.
The Feed-In Tariff program provides a 20 year fixed rate contract for eligible energy sources, mainly wind and solar. These fixed rates were quite generous to the early adopters and have been reduced as the cost of the installations has been falling. An owner of a system can expect a 10-12% return on investment per year from a system over their lifetime. You might say that is a good return. It is compared to many other investment options. What is important to realize is that most of that money is staying in the community. It is going to your neighbours and into the local economy directly and indirectly. We are a good case in point. We live here, work here, shop here. The tracking mount for one of our 10 KW systems was made in Bradford at Magna Closures. That is both direct and indirect community investment.
There are those that have argued, including a certain political party in this current Ontario Election, that the FIT and MicroFIT program are a waste of money and results in higher electricity rates. Those that are bringing that money back into the community and those that have seen the benefits may beg to differ. There is no doubt that that the FIT program represents an investment on behalf of the government and people of Ontario, but the facts show that this investment is no where close to that being made in nuclear upgrades, peaker plants and infrastructure upgrades. The fact is solar power still accounts for only about 1% of Ontario’s energy mix.
Of course the best part is that those benefitting from the FIT program and Green Energy Act are not an exclusive or elite crowd; you can get involved even if you don’t live on the 3rd Line. Just as the internet let anyone become a media star, the MicroFIT program lets anyone become an energy producer. Have a south-facing roof? Even East and West rooflines can participate. Get your MicroFIT application into the OPA right away. Depending on who wins the election on June 12th, you may have missed your opportunity.