By Pam Banks
The extreme heat dome has nudged many of us to consider energy alternatives in place of using our air conditioners. The Ontario feed-in-tariff (FIT) has been instrumental in increasing the business opportunity for entrepreneurs in the solar technology space. Just last month, Eclipsall Energy Corp. announced the opening of its manufacturing facility in Toronto to make solar panels for Ontario’s growing clean energy sector.
Recently, MaRS DD hosted an event focused on Optimizing Solar Performance. It seems that there are some challenges in the solar space and the biggest risk is the invertor. The invertor converts energy generated by a solar panel (DC electricity) to AC (alternating current) so that it can be used to power household appliances.
Matthew Feinstein, from Lux Research indicated that solar invertors are the single highest cost and the major cause of system failures in solar power generation. There are many start-ups, in the area of power optimizers, attempting to increase the performance of the invertor.
FIT has incented to accelerate the adoption of solar technology, but this has resulted in new stresses on the local distribution companies. Possibly the most concerning issues are grid connectivity and capacity constraints. Physical constraints in terms of how much power can flow on the lines are present. In fact, hydro systems were initially developed to flow power in one direction. With the emergence of micro generators, the power lines require the ability to flow energy in reverse. However, many local hydro distributors are unable to work in reverse load capacity. Because of such grid constraints, over one thousand rural solar projects were put on hold this year.
Perhaps we need to look to the success of the FIT program to offer similar incentives to allow industry and technically experienced entrepreneurs to collaborate and find solutions to the capacity constraints of the electrical grid system.
Pam is the Executive Director for Altitude Accelerator. Pam has worked with entrepreneurs in all stages of start-up and growth through the Enterprise Centres and the Canadian Technology Networks.
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