The cost and sustainability of energy is affecting everyone and some people in Sudbury are taking action. The Sudbury Unlimited eNergy Cooperative Board (SUN Coop) is working on its first 500kw solar project.
This past December, the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) notified SUN Coop that its application was successful and SUN Coop was selected to receive a 20-year Feed In Tariff (FIT) contract to generate energy on a Vale property.
SUN Coop is still in the early stages of development and has much work to do, yet it has financial support from individual citizens, the private sector and all levels of government to move the project forward.
The firm incorporated in 2013 as a community renewable energy cooperative with a seven member board and a membership of more than 80 co-op members. SUN Coop’s mission is to develop, own and oversee the operation of solar projects that sell renewable energy.
Obtaining a FIT contract is very competitive and positions SUN Coop to build the community renewable energy sector in City of Greater Sudbury. The FIT program supports the generation of renewal energy for the provincial electricity grid at a predetermined fixed rate for twenty years.
New processes and materials are helping to convert energy from the sun to electricity at decreasing costs. Over the last 20 years, renewable costs have dropped seven to 30 per cent annually and the trend is continuing which means more grid capacity can be built for less cost.
While solar power remains a small component of electricity generation in Ontario, the potential to grow this sector is driving innovation and commercialization of new technologies.
For the most part using existing infrastructure and locating projects with grid capacity minimizes loss of energy through transmission and project development costs.
As a community renewal energy cooperative, SUN Coop expects to create opportunities for local investors to participate in funding the cost of developing and operating the project.
While it is still too early to set a rate of return for the required investment of $1.5- to $1.7 million for the 500kw solar project at Vale, other viable FIT projects are providing competitive rates of return.
SUN Coop is building its capacity to eventually develop five megawatts of energy. As a social enterprise, SUN plans to use its profits from these projects to fund a community grant program that supports social enterprises and green projects.
Generating five megawatts of energy would supply energy for approximately 6,000 homes. Sudbury’s economy would also get a boost from the development, construction and operation of the solar projects and the creation of an investment opportunity with a competitive rate of return.
ReThinking Green is produced by ReThink Green, a local non-profit organization promoting environmental action, policies and networking in the Greater Sudbury area.