Ontario's Many Solar Noons

During our previous exploration of optimal array positioning for TOU markets, the ARI team was struck by another interesting element of solar integration into the Ontario electricity grid. The observation stemmed from the fact that our province spans nearly 1700km from east to west, and largely has the same time zone: solar noon in Eastern Ontario occurs nearly a clock-hour ahead of solar noon in Western Ontario.

With this significant temporal separation in solar noon, solar systems at opposite ends of the province will have a production offset throughout the day, as demonstrated by two identical but geographically separate systems modeled here:

Production of two identical systems on a clear sky day in separate locations (east of Ottawa, Thunder Bay)

Production of two identical systems on a clear sky day in separate locations (east of Ottawa, Thunder Bay)

This leads to an interesting advantage for large, Class A consumers in western Ontario who wish to avoid Global Adjustment (GA) charges through on-site generation with solar. Historical IESO data indicates that the Ontario demand peaks that drive the GA price usually occur in the late summer, around 5-6pm EST. The geographic production offset means that, at this time, an identical site in Thunder Bay would be producing as an Eastern Ontario site had been between 4-5pm. By no means is this the optimal time for production, but relative to each other a Western system would be producing nearly 170% more than the Eastern system. By the same logic, optimized systems with azimuths biased for afternoon production would fare better in Western locations.

The design and analysis surrounding a system built for reducing GA charges is not limited to this one factor. Many others considerations exist, chief among them is the probability of good levels of production coinciding with the small window of time that GA charges are incurred. A weather year such as the one the Eastern seaboard has had thus far in 2017 could give a system owner cause for worry. This is why ARI works with clients to evaluate production variability and the impacts this can have on system design, project financing, and the intended goals of the project. Watch for a future blog post on some of these considerations in the coming weeks.

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