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Enviroharvest is an alternative energy consultancy in Ontario, Canada led by Floris van Ooyen. The firm provides cost effective off-grid alternative energy solutions using solar, wind, and water power as well as fueled generator equipment. Their passion for ecologically sound and efficient solutions is evident in their in-depth consultative processes, ensuring the solution reflects both their client’s current objectives and their future plans. While providing a response to their client’s initial requests, they also provide alternative technology and product solutions where these would be more efficient or cost effective.
Energy Insight spoke with mister van Ooyen about government incentive programs promoting small-scale renewable energy projects.
Energy Insight – Enviroharvest provides consulting for clients who want to take advantage of government incentives. What can you tell us about feed-in tariff programs like Ontario’s microFIT?
van Ooyen – Setting up anything to do with renewable energy on your own is a very complicated business. It’s a quantum leap further than just putting some solar panels on your roof. Not only do you have your solar panels and electricity, but you’ve got to worry about batteries and storage and a lot of mess between how much you need to get out of your system and what you need to get for your system.
Usually I deal with people off grid, and off grid is a lot more complicated by several stages. Basically your alternative is to put forty-thousand dollars worth of hydro poles and wire up, and bring it all the way to your cottage. Then you get to pay to retire the debt and everything else. And you get to pay for all the months that you don’t use it just for having it there. It’s such an expensive adventure that it doesn’t normally pay.
MicroFIT is a lot easier. Basically you ask, what can I afford? How much roof space do I have? How much does it cost? Then you fill out your application for microFIT and somebody comes and climbs all over your roof and installs it in about a day and a half to two days, and it’s done.
Until they came out with the FIT program I use to talk people out of doing this because if you’re getting 47 cents per kilowatt and it costs you somewhere closer to 75 cents to produce, why would you go and do this? The math didn’t make sense to me. But now with an 80.2 cents tariff coming back the incentive to buy makes a lot of sense.
I think it’s great where they’re going. Ontario is head and shoulders above any other province out here. They’ve done extremely well. They started off with solar only and eventually included wind, biogas, and biomass as well. This is another incentive that primes the pump, and its a good thing.
Energy Insight – The two most commonly chosen options seem to be wind and solar. How would you compare them?
van Ooyen – Wind is very mechanical. There are great places for wind in Ontario, don’t get me wrong. You can be along the lake shore of Ontario or wherever else where you can get the wind sweeping along the edge. You can be in Bancroft, between all those mountains of rock and hill and get some really great wind without being on the highest point on top of the mountain waiting for a lightning strike. There are some really great spots in Ontario, but they’re situational.
Solar is just so sweet because its completely solid state. It just does its thing. You keep it clean, have it aimed in the proper direction, you’re done.
Energy Insight – Is this a good time to get into this from a customer’s point of view?
van Ooyen – If the economy is going where people really like to see it going, I think it’s a great time because yes, you can do it. Once you’ve got your pay-back, it’s starting to buy your electricity for you, which is great.
And the technology is reliable. With regard to solar panels, I’ve got people off grid going on seventeen years plus. I’ve gone through and put meters and gauges on them just to check and their solar panels are doing just fine. I’ve even found some nineteen-year-old panels out there. They’re doing just fine comparatively so I can see that they are going to last. So it’s not like you’re going to take a chance. The normal guarantee or warranty is 80 percent at 20 years or 25 years.
Energy Insight – What should consumers be aware of before undertaking a FIT project?
van Ooyen – Number one, you want a licensed electrician to install it. Number two, you want to have all your bits and pieces together that will fit and work on the roof.
Most people don’t want to crawl up and down their roof or play with the service power for the house. And even if you’re allowed to do electrical work yourself, it’s beyond what the average guy who can wire in a new plug is going to do. There are definite code issues here and you’re working with the full power of what goes back to the grid.
It would be nice to see some of this stuff licensed. It’s like home inspectors; you don’t know what your paying for. You don’t know who you’ve got giving you advice. It’s such a deep topic, so easy to get lost. Licensing would stop the people who just slap stuff together.
It’s still a small time industry so what happens is that people don’t manage their clients expectations well enough, or don’t manage the client well enough. They let them think the factory warranty on the equipment will cover them. Let me explain to you what a factory warranty means. It means if it doesn’t work and it’s up there, you bring it down and you package it up and send it off to the factory. It doesn’t mean that the installer is going to drive into the middle of nowhere, climb up to the top of the tower, pack it up for you, and wait to install it again.
There are places that I go, at least two or three times a year, where I’ll turn away from a job mostly because either I’d have to tear it all out and start over again and that’s not what they’re going to do, or I’m going to put my electrician’s license in jeopardy by touching it. You touch it, you own it. You just sort of back off and say, I can’t work on this. Here’s a couple of names of competitors.