Going Solar in Ontario, Canada

Our family is one giant step closer to being part of Ontario’s innovative micro-FIT program, which is encouraging the growth of renewable energy production in the province by paying a premium to regular folks like us for generating electricity using renewable technologies and feeding it back into the grid. Our journey started last February when my husband Mark filled out the application to the program, acting on advice given to him by David at the R.E. Source Store in St. Thomas, Ontario. For more details on the process that has got us to where we are today, go to the “Ontario’s microFIT program: The Nitty-Gritty On Going Solar” page.

Here are some pictures of the process:


Getting started



All the clips installed on upper roof



Installing the rails and micro-inverters




Hauling the panels up to the roof



Panel #1 of 33 installed!



The finished installation


And just for fun, a video of putting on the last solar panel:


Did I mention I’m not fond of heights? Oh well, what doesn’t kill a person makes them stronger…

We are still not quite to the point of feeding our electricity back into the grid. That requires hooking up the solar array to a separate meter, which will be done by a local electrician. And, of course, approval from the electrical inspector. So stay posted!

More links:

We’re Solarized

Ontario Power Authority microFIT program

R.E. Source Store

“With Renewable Energy You Can Do Impossible Things”

I think it’s time for good news for a change, don’t you?  First, let’s recognize that it’s day 81 of the BP oil disaster in the Gulf, and that results of that catastrophe, on the people and the environment, are just beginning to be felt. But today I’m going to talk about bright spots on the green horizon – because there are some!  For example:

  • Yesterday in Payerne, Switzerland a solar-powered plane landed after a 26 hour record-breaking flight. The pilot, Bertrand Piccard, said:

There is a before and after in terms of what people have to believe and understand about renewable energies,

He went on to say that the flight was proof new technologies can help break society’s dependence on fossil fuels.

When you took off it was another era,” said Piccard, who achieved the first nonstop circumnavigation of the globe in a balloon, the Breitling Orbiter III, in 1999. “You land in a new era where people understand that with renewable energy you can do impossible things.”

Click here for the full story.

And while we are discussing solar, some good news on my family’s steps towards generating some “green” energy. This week, our 20-year old roof shingles were replaced to prepare for the 6 – 7 Kilowatt solar panel system that will be going up sometime in the next few weeks. We have applied, and been accepted into, the Ontario microFIT program. I will share more info, and pictures, as the project progresses.

  • And in other good news, one year after a ban on lawn pesticides in Ontario, surface water is much cleaner. It only makes sense, but it’s nice to have confirmation that legislation like this can make a dramatic difference in just twelve months. From Treehugger.com:

68 stream water samples were taken over 2008 and 2009, representing the water quality before and after the ban took effect. Sampling points were selected in areas mainly influenced by residential run-off — away from golf courses, sewage treatment plant effluents, and agricultural applications. The samples were analyzed for 105 pesticides and pesticide degradation products.

The results are dramatic: three pesticides estimated to account for half of lawn care product applications dropped by 86% (2,4-D), 82% (dicamba), and 78% (MCPP: 2-methyl-4-chlorophenoxyacetic acid). On the other hand, concentrations of glyphosphate (Roundup) and carbaryl did not drop significantly. The results for glyphosphate (Roundup) are attributed to continued use of this pesticide in certain exempted applications. The carbaryl results are not explained; perhaps this is due to the persistence of carbaryl in sediment.

Go to TreeHugger.com for the full story.

  • A third independent inquiry into the so-called “Climategate” scandal that was headline news all over the climate skeptics blogs six months ago has, once again, cleared the scientists of any wrong-doing. Muir Russell, the author of the third report, said clearly “Their rigor and honesty as scientists are not in doubt.”Yet the blogosphere remains strangely quiet on the matter, except those who are claiming (yet another) conspiracy.  To read more, check out “Third Inquiry Clears ‘Climategate’ Scientists of Serious Wrongdoing” at Newsweek.com. Here’s a bit of what it says:

Climategate, as its “gate” suffix suggests, has attained mythical status. For skeptics, the 1,000 or so e-mails and documents hacked last year from the Climactic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia (UEA), in England, establish that global warming is a scientific conspiracy. There is no such proof. Here’s what happened.

And then a brief synopsis of events leading up to the latest inquiry is given, including Sarah Palin’s damning (and now, clearly completely inaccurate) opinion piece in The Washington Post that asserted “leading climate ‘experts’ deliberately destroyed records, manipulated data to ‘hide the decline’ in global temperatures, and tried to silence their critics by preventing them from publishing in peer-reviewed journals.” The Newsweek article concludes by pointing out the muted response by the media and blogosphere to the news that there was no conspiracy on the part of climate scientists, compared to the blaring headlines touting a conspiracy when the story initially broke:

But, as NEWSWEEK’s Sharon Begley pointed out, the retractions of the original “smoking gun” stories have been muted. Climategate, now a firmly established “gate,” will probably continue to be cited as evidence of a global-warming conspiracy. Indeed, the reaction to the report today has been somewhat odd. Bloomberg News’s headline was ‘Climategate’ Scientists Wrongly Withheld Data, Probe Finds‘*. It is inflammatory and misleading—the report did not say that information was withheld. It said that the scientists could have been better at responding to Freedom of Information Act requests, and generally, as Begley also noted, more open to scrutiny.

Go to Newsweek.com for the full story

*Interestingly, if you click on this link to Bloomberg.com, the story headline is now changed to “Climategate Scientists Cleared Of Manipulating Data”

Related links:

Tell Obama to Put Solar on the White House

And, for those of us not in the United States, go this link and ask YOUR leader to put solar on his/her home this year:

Put Solar On It

Ontario’s $8 Billion Renewable Energy Investment: The Most Significant Climate Change Investment in North America

With an exciting announcement yesterday, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty secured the province’s place as the North American leader in green energy. The 184 projects, which include 36 community and aboriginal proposals located throughout the province,  will be receiving the money. The projects are expected to generate 20,000 new jobs in Ontario,  which has been among the Canadian provinces hit the hardest by the recession in recent years.

Premier McGuinty and Energy Minister Brad Duguid made the announcement in Cornwall yesterday. They said the projects are expected to create almost 2,500 megawatts – more than Niagara Falls generates – of renewable energy from wind, solar and run-of-river hydro projects, and generate enough energy to power 600,000 homes in the province, McGuinty said.

A breakdown of the projects looks like this:

  • 76 ground-mounted solar panel
  • 47 onshore wind
  • 46 waterpower
  • 7 biogas
  • 2 biomass
  • 1 rooftop solar
  • 1 offshore wind

This is the most significant climate change initiative in all of North America,” Duguid said. “It puts us ahead of the game and that’s where we fully intend to stay.”

It’s just the kind of investment in clean energy that is needed to create good green jobs, and revitalize the economy.” Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defense said in response to the announcement.

Click here to read more at The Star.com, and here for the OPA news release.

Wind-Works Co-op Lagerway Turbine

India Emerges as Climate Action Leader While Canada Stays Stuck in Oil Sands

An article on Yale Environment 360, “In India, a Clear Victory on The Climate Action Front“, discusses a recent sea change in India’s approach to climate change, as evidenced by the resignation of  its Special Envoy of the Prime Minister on Climate Change, Shyam Saran. Saran’s departure, the article points out, is related to the rising influence of Jairem Ramesh, Minister for the Environment and Forests. It is a good thing for a country, and a world, that needs to be moving towards reducing CO2 emissions now, not in 10 or 20 years.

India’s traditional negotiating stance, shaped and defended by Saran, could be summed up in one truculent sentence: The developed world had caused the problem and the developed world should fix it. Ramesh, though, pressed for a change in approach: Though India may not have been part of the problem, he insisted, it had to be part of the solution.

Ramesh has long argued that it is in India’s best interests to address climate change, and is now poised to move India toward low-carbon policies at home and in the international arena.

In his short stint as environment minister, Ramesh has managed to walk a difficult political tightrope. He has moved India’s climate policy forward against the opposition of much of the civil service and India’s influential civil society, both quick to accuse politicians of pandering to outside pressure and failing to defend India’s interests. In an influential speech to Parliament last year, Ramesh argued that it was in India’s own interest to be proactive on climate measures, regardless of international frameworks, because a failure to do so left India’s future prosperity vulnerable to climate shocks. India, he said, should offer a 20 to 25 percent reduction in emissions intensity by 2020, a proactive policy, he argued, that would allow India to claim leadership internationally. It infuriated the traditional climate negotiators who had spent years avoiding any suggestion of leadership.

Closer to home, Ontario will be making another move towards a greener and cleaner economy soon.  Ontario’s Minister of Energy, Brad Duguid, is expected to make an announcement later this month on an ambitious provincial program aimed at helping Ontario’s biggest industrial players become more efficient users of electricity and stronger competitors on the world stage by paying up to 70 per cent of the cost of an energy retrofit. Read more about Watt Guzzlers Get Green Retrofit at the Star.com.

Alas, at the federal level in Canada, as discussed earlier, the Harper Conservatives’ strategy is tied to short-term economic gain in the Alberta oil fields at the expense of Canada’s long-term environmental and economic health.  Contrary to last week’s throne speech penned by the Conservatives, which talked about the need to become a clean energy superpower and lead in green job creation, in reality their policies are set to take Canada in the opposite direction. Read more at Hamilton: Federal Green Strategy Goes From Bad to Worse.

In contrast to Harper’s much-repeated mantra that addressing climate change will hurt the economy, Canada’s economy in the long-run will be much healthier if we embrace, rather than resist, the new green economy.  Harper would be well advised to view the video, Are we fixing fundamentals, or just pretending? It addresses the question “Will the environment lose out to the economy in 2009?” and was made prior to the World Economic Forum meetings in Davos, Switzerland last year.


For more information on this video, including the full script, go to TheMostImportantNumber.org.

Good News – Ontario Poised to Phase-out Coal Completely

Back in 2001, Ontario’s Liberal government passed legislation to eliminate the first coal-fired power plant by 2005. Once this was accomplished, a second goal was set to shut down the 4 remaining coal generating stations in the province by 2014. This coal phase-out is the single largest greenhouse gas emission reduction initiative in North America – equivalent to taking almost seven million cars off the road. For more on why it is so important to stop using coal as an energy source now, go to Burycoal.com.

The Ontario Clean Air Alliance recently published a report that points out that Ontario has a significant surplus of coal-free generating capacity now and could finish the coal phase out in 2010, four years ahead of schedule.

Given that Ontario’s coal-free generation capacity now exceeds our peak day demands by more than 18%, we no longer need our dirty coal plants to meet North American reliability standards. Nevertheless, according to the Ontario Power Authority, we need to retain some of our coal capacity on standby reserve until December 31, 2014…

The report concludes that:

By achieving a virtually complete coal phase-out before this summer’s G20 Summit in Toronto, Ontario can protect public heath and provide climate change leadership to Canada, the United States, China and the World.

Ontario has emerged as a North American leader as it moves towards more sustainable ways of generating electricity, particularly after the Green Energy Act was passed last spring.  The GEA proposes to double renewable power generation in Ontario by 2015, to create thousands of “green” jobs, and to cut the bureaucracy around new alternative energy initiatives. Let’s hope that the Ontario government keeps up its push towards green energy and away from carbon emissions that endanger the health of its citizens and the planet, and follow the OCAA’s recommendations.

To read the Ontario Clean Air Alliance Report in full, click here.

To read more about the Green Energy Act, click here to go to the Ontario Ministry of the Energy and Infrastructure website. Go to  Envirolaw.com for an analysis of it by Ontario environmental lawyer Dianne Saxe.

To send a message to Premier McGuinty encouraging him to continue down the road to sustainability by following the OCAA’s recommendations, you can call him at 613-736-9573 or
send him a fax at 613-736-7374. His email address is: dmcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org.

To send the same message to Brad Duguid, Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, email him at: bduguid.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org. You can reach him by phone at 416-615-2183, or fax him at 416-615-2011. *Correction – my original post cited George Smitherman as the Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, but he has resigned and is now running for Mayor of Toronto. Thanks to a reader, Richard, for pointing out this error.*

Toronto Lagerwey Wind Turbine