Solar-run power park planned on waterfront

TORONTO, ONTARIO - Portlands Energy Centre is lending prime waterfront property to the University of Toronto as part of a plan to build a multi-million-dollar "solar park" that would supply clean electricity to the province's grid and double as a research site.

Kitchener-based Arise Technologies Inc. is also a partner in the project, and has agreed to design and construct the facility by early 2009 at a cost of between $5 million and $8 million. The proposed system would on sunny days generate between 500 kilowatts and one megawatt of electricity, enough to power a few hundred homes.

The system will be based on high-efficiency solar modules that Arise and the university have been developing together for a number of years, said Ian MacLellan, president and chief executive of Arise.

"This is a commercial system that will generate electricity," McLellan said.

The electricity will be sold to the province under its new standard-offer program, McLellan said.

He said the aim is to take a product in development at the university and "see how it performs in the real world."

The project will also add a touch of green to the 550-megawatt, natural gas-fired generating plant currently under construction in the port-lands area, a joint venture between Ontario Power Generation and TransCanada Energy Ltd. that's expected to begin operation in 2008.

The Portlands centre has faced vocal opposition from some local citizens and environmentalists, who argue the plant is too large and that Toronto, which faces a power crunch over the coming years, should put more emphasis on energy conservation.

Jim Burpee, chairman of the energy centre, said this kind of solar system was part of the original plans for the Portlands centre, but OPG is not allowed to participate in the province's standard-offer program.

For this reason, the centre decided to donate the land, valued at $2.4 million, to U of T and give Arise and the university's researchers a chance to test and study the new solar technology in a large-scale setting.

"This is something the community was interested in," Burpee said.

Energy Minister Dwight Duncan called the solar park a good opportunity for the city and the province.

"There's not enough research going on with these technologies in Ontario," he said. "This is something that's beneficial, not only to the local community, but also in terms of our ability to learn more about solar and make it competitive price-wise."

MacLellan said he might establish a community co-operative to finance the project, but has yet to work out the details. Under such a structure, shares would be sold to local citizens, who in turn would get dividends from electricity revenues.


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