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Canada

Rush of projects sign up for utility pilot

A pilot "net billing" programme offered by Ontario Hydro is allowing a number of small wind turbine projects to be built throughout the province. But the utility, which is government owned, is allowing only a few projects under the pilot programme and it has also limited the size of generating unit to 50 kW.

A pilot "net billing" programme offered by Ontario Hydro is allowing a number of small wind turbine projects to be built throughout the province -- despite the cancellation of the utility's large scale renewable energy technology (RETS) programme (Windpower Monthly, March 1997). But Ontario Hydro, which is government owned, is allowing only a few projects under the pilot programme and it has also limited the size of generating unit to 50 kW.

Under the net billing system, customers receive the value of the renewable energy they feed into Ontario Hydro's grid, less the amount they remove from it. Any output surplus becomes income to businesses or homeowners. As of mid January, 11 net billing contracts were complete, seven of which involve wind turbines, three of which involve solar projects, and one of which is a wind/solar hybrid, says Ontario Hydro's Jeannette Boyer.

Three projects are running so far, including two based on wind energy: a 25 kW Vergnet turbine, commissioned at Collingwood on Georgian Bay by Wenvor Technologies of Guelph, Ontario; and a Lagerwey 80 kW unit in the town of Spanish, on the north shore of Lake Huron. The output of the Lagerwey has been restricted to 50 kW to conform to the net billing rules. The small town of Spanish owns the turbine, which was bought from Dutch Industries of Saskatchewan. Meantime an Atlantic Orient AOC 15/50 wind turbine is currently being commissioned and is slated to join the programme.

Boyer says 20 projects are allowed under the net billing pilot and there have been several inquiries from potential participants, including eight from wind proponents. Responsibility for the programme has shifted from the utility's technology development division to its emerging retail company. Boyer says net billing will have to adapt and change to a competitive market as customer choice is introduced in Ontario in 2000, or before. The pilot is still being evaluated and it is too early to say whether it will become a fully fledged programme, she adds.

Meanwhile, the North Toronto Green Community (NTGC), an environmental group, is attempting to establish an "energy co-operative" based on net billing, in which members would have 50 kW shares of a 600 kW wind turbine. The group would build, own and operate the turbine at a location in the newly expanded City of Toronto, in a net billing agreement with Toronto Hydro.

NTGC has completed a pre-feasibility study through a grant from the Toronto Atmospheric Fund and has received an additional grant to develop the project, according to Byran Young of NTGC. Net billing rules, however, do not currently recognise such energy co-operatives.

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