The major event for our co-operative during the July 2015 to June 2016 fiscal year was the receipt of another Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) contract. After having declined a FIT contract for a project on mining land earlier in 2015, we had refocused our efforts on the rural areas of the city. So in the summer of 2015 we searched for potential leased properties with the help of Soventix, our new private solar developer partner. We were able to sign two leases with local individuals, gained support from city council and applied for two projects that fall. After a long wait, at the very end of our fiscal year in June 2016, we were pleased to receive word back on those applications. One was disqualified on a typo and the other was approved!
The approved FIT contract is for a 500 kilowatt ground-mounted solar project for land leased in Wanup. That FIT contract means if we can build the project in the next three years at an affordable cost, then the government will buy the power produced by it at a fixed rate for the next twenty years. Soventix believes the project is feasible, and will be doing detailed engineering over the next months. It is likely we’ll be using a new racking technology that connects all the panels so they weigh each other down, meaning that concrete footings for each panel won’t be needed. We are happy that this innovation will further reduce the environmental impact and cost of building the project.
Unfortunately after months of work negotiating land leases, gaining city council support and gathering consent forms for members, we were unable to apply to the latest intake of the FIT program this month. At the last moment, the government identified that Northeastern Ontario no longer had the capacity for any renewable energy projects. We were disappointed by this news but are still happy to have one significant project coming out of the difficult FIT program.
Our job over the next year, as a co-op of 95 members, will be to develop and market the community bonds that will allow as much of the project’s financing to come from local individuals and organizations as possible. The 20-year FIT contract means we’ll be able to offer long-term, strong and stable returns to Sudburians who want a local and ethical investment that supports their own community. We even expect that people will be able to invest through their existing RRSP portfolio!
We are excited to be making progress towards our mandate to stimulate community-owned renewable energy development. As we move forward this year we were in need of at least two more board members to help guide the work of the co-op. Thankfully John Caruso stepped up at the recent annual general meeting. However, we still require one more volunteer.
We take heart though, after our years of volunteering as board members, that with a FIT contract in hand we also qualify for provincial funding to support the planning of the project. We are in the midst of preparing those applications, and are off to a good start with a $5000 contribution confirmed from the City of Greater Sudbury. This funding will mean the board will have support from professional experts and staff to make it all happen.
Finally, we’d like to thank outgoing board members Richard Eberhardt and Andrée-Michelle D’Aoust-Messier for their time and energy this past year. Andrée in particular has put a lot of time into our social media, marketing, and especially as our Treasurer the past two years. She is taking a break while expecting her first child soon, and we wish her all the best!
Your SUN Co-op Board of Directors,