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Firm’s demise signals dim future for home-based solar

Published on

Troy Shantz

A solar power company based in Sarnia has ceased operations, a victim of the coronavirus and government policy, it says.

Unconquered Sun is a subsidiary of Bluewater Power that installed solar energy panels on home and business rooftops.

The company, originally based in Tecumseh, Ont., was purchased by Bluewater Power in 2015 and had 15 employees.

“The solar rooftop business currently is not something that, for the foreseeable future, can be self-sustaining in our opinion,” said Bluewater Power CEO Janice McMichael Dennis.

The “backbone” of the acquisition was two Feed-In Tariff contracts locked in at the most lucrative rates Ontario ever offered for solar-generated electricity, paying as much as $0.82 a kilowatt-hour.

“You could argue that was far too lucrative,” McMichael-Dennis said, noting $0.13 a kilowatt-hour is about what’s offered today.

Ontario started phasing out the feed-in tariff program in 2016.

The Ford government’s election in 2018 brought a “sudden and extended void” in policies favourable to renewable energy, Unconquered Sun COO Kathy Gadsby said in the letter to customers.

“We found ourselves the last bastion, wounded, but proudly still standing in the shriveling up Canadian residential solar provider market,” she said.

“Then COVID-19 hit the world” and the entire solar industry was severely disrupted.

McMichael-Dennis said profits started falling last year and layoffs began six months ago.

“That’s the hardest part. Business closures have very real human impacts,” she said.

Ian Clarke is one of hundreds of affected customers. Unconquered Sun installed a 38-panel solar array on his Sarnia home in 2016, and it continues to generate clean, renewable energy that does not add to climate change, he said.

He’s disappointed one of Ontario’s last surviving solar companies has gone under. And though his 10-year contract is profitable, the current lower rates will make the solar payback period unattractive to new residential customers, he said.

“Solar power is just not going to be possible in the province anymore.”

The purchase price of Unconquered Sun was not disclosed, but McMichael-Dennis said Bluewater Power came out ahead on the investment as a whole.

It was the fifth subsidiary business owned by parent Bluewater Power Corporation, whose shareholders are its member municipalities.

Shutting down the solar operation was not part of the $1 million in cost savings Bluewater Power has implemented to contend with COVID-19, McMichael-Dennis said.




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