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OPUC pushes for extension to solar pilot project to gather more info

The solar panel system allows for users to collect solar energy during the day, which can then be used during peak times to save money or even be sold back to the OPUC’s grid. (Photo by Joel Wittnebel)

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

A pilot project that is being billed as a bright success by Oshawa’s power utility has been extended by council in order to gather further information.

The solar management pilot project is a joint effort between the Oshawa Power and Utilities Corporation (OPUC) and the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) out of Japan. The project received the endorsement of City of Oshawa council in 2015 when a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between the three organizations to allow the project to move forward.

That original MOU, which was only good for two years, was previously extended in January 2017 to February of this year. Now, following approval from Oshawa council, the OPUC has pushed the expiration date further to the end of August 2018 in order to gather data from another seasonal change cycle.

“The additional time will allow for an improved customer experience for each homeowner as we transition through the next winter and summer cycle,” states Ivano Labricciosa, the president and CEO of the OPUC, adding this will better assist the organization to “successfully transition the system to the end customers.”

“(OPUC) has taken part in a successful pilot program, and these systems rank as one of the best in the Canadian market and we are proud to have brought this to our customers in Oshawa,” he states.

That system being a solar panel installation atop 30 residential homes in Oshawa. Each individual system allows for solar energy to be captured and stored for later use, or even sold back to the OPUC’s grid. A particularly sunny day could see the home generate more electricity than it uses, and this surplus is applied as a credit on the customer’s electric bill. The system can also pull power from the grid during off-peak hours to cut costs and the battery can supply backup power, at minimum usage, for up to three days in the event of a blackout. It’s estimated that such an installation can save users as much as 70 per cent on their hydro bills.

According to Labricciosa, the systems have been successful in assisting those involved in the pilot project during unplanned outages over the last few years.

For the city, the extension of the MOU comes with little in the way of risk, as according to a motion before council, “the city’s one responsibility within the MOU is to provide information to the public, as appropriate, on the project, upon successful completion of the project.”