Ontario’s microFIT Program: The Nitty-Gritty On Going Solar

The approval process after our application to the OPA microFIT program took 3 1/2 months;  in June, we heard that our application had been conditionally approved. By then, Mark had done a lot of research on solar technology and had narrowed our choice of suppliers down to a few companies. More discussion with companies both in California and Southern Ontario followed after we received word that we could go ahead with our project before Mark decided to go with a solar package from the R.E. Source Store in St. Thomas, Ontario. We have had the solar panels sitting in our garage since they were delivered at the end of July, waiting to be installed,  which was why it was particularly difficult to learn that those panels had to be returned to the factory in southern Ontario a few weeks ago, after the electrical inspector noticed that no CSA stickers had been applied at the warehouse before shipping them to us. These stickers indicate that the panels meet Canadian safety standards. Some other options for getting the CSA stickers were discussed, including shipping the stickers out to us so we could apply them, or (when that failed to meet the inspector’s approval) the possibility of Dave, the distributor from whom we bought the panels, flying up and applying them himself. That, too, didn’t pass muster with our inspector, so in the end the manufacturer had to ship up a whole new batch of panels and take back the first ones.

The second set of panels arrived on Wednesday of last week. Mark had done all of the prep work on the roof, installing the rails and doing the wiring. Once the inspector approved this on Thursday the installation of the panels could begin.  We started by hauling the panels up on the roof (and when I say “we”  I should clarify that Mark did the majority of the carrying, being the bigger and stronger one, but I was still very much a part of the process. It would have been very difficult for one person to do on their own). The 21 panels on the upper roof were installed first, then the 12 lower ones. And I should add that installing these, particularly the ones  nearest the edge of the roof, is not for the faint of heart!

If you’re interested in seeing how much power we are generating, in real-time, check out our Enphase Energy page – it updates the information every fifteen minutes, and also graphs our output by the day, week, and month: EnphaseEnergy.com

What We Have Learned From Our Experience So Far:

1. Apply early if you are hoping to be part of the Ontario microFIT program – it took us 3 1/2 months after we applied to receive our conditional approval. Even if you are not sure of the final size of your solar array, fill out the application with your best guess. It is easier to change the size of your project once you have been approved, as long as it is still 10 kW or smaller, than to speed up the approval process.

2. Hire professional installers, unless you have a LOT more time than money, and only if you have some electrical know-how. We went the do-it-yourself route because there was no local installer, and because Mark is a hands-on kind of guy who was interested in learning the process. He does have a background in carpentry and has done a fair bit of electrical wiring.

3. If you are doing it yourself, speak to your electrical inspector early as you will need an electrical permit. Also check with your local building inspector as you may need a building permit, depending on the size of your project and where you live, as it may differ between municipalities.

4. If you are planning to be part of the Ontario microFIT program, make sure that you meet the  domestic content requirements as outlined on the OPA microFIT website. In 2011, the program requires that 60% of your materials and installation be considered Ontario-based.  Read the guidelines on the OPA website (*link removed as this program is no longer accepting new applications*).

Panels are on!

As of October 17, 2010, all of the panels are installed but we are not yet hooked up to the grid. More details will follow as that final part of the project is completed.

To view more pictures, click here.

And here’s a video of us installing the last panel: