How to Start a Solar Farm in Ontario: Regulations, Incentives, & Expert Tips

With increasing demand for renewable energy, starting a solar farm in Ontario can be a lucrative business opportunity. However, launching a new solar farm requires careful planning and preparation. From assessing solar resource potential to obtaining necessary permits and financing, it’s important to do your homework before diving in.

This article provides an in-depth guide to starting a solar farm in Ontario. With the right strategic approach, you can successfully tap into Ontario’s solar energy market. Follow the recommendations in this guide to ensure your solar farm vision becomes an economically viable reality. The renewable energy boom in Ontario awaits those willing to put in the hard work and preparation needed to establish a profitable solar farm.

Key Takeaways

  • Starting a solar farm in Ontario requires conducting feasibility studies, obtaining necessary permits and licenses, and securing financing.
  • After you design and construct your solar farm, you’ll need to connect it to the grid and maintain it.
  • After the ending of Feed-In Tariff and microFIT programs, there is no longer a standardized program or pricing for selling electricity.
  • Private solar farms can sell electricity to the grid, through negotiating power purchase agreements.
  • Navigating government incentives and programs is also important to ensure that you’re taking advantage of all available opportunities.

1. Understanding Solar Farms

What is a Solar Farm?

A solar farm is a large-scale facility that generates electricity from solar energy. It consists of photovoltaic panels, which convert sunlight into electricity, and other components such as inverters, transformers, and wiring. Solar farms can be ground-mounted or installed on rooftops. A solar panel installation can range in size from a few kilowatts to several megawatts.

Benefits and Advantages of Solar Farms

Solar farms have many benefits and advantages. They are a source of clean, renewable energy that does not produce greenhouse gas emissions or air pollution. They provide a reliable source of electricity that is not subject to fluctuations in fuel prices. They also have a low operating cost and require minimal maintenance.

In addition, solar farms can provide economic benefits to local communities. They create jobs during construction and operation, and they can generate revenue through the sale of electricity. They can also increase property values and attract new businesses to the area.

Overview of Ontario’s Solar Industry and Potential

Ontario has a thriving solar industry, with over 1.9 GW of installed capacity as of Dec 2022. The province has a strong policy framework that supports the development of renewable energy, including solar.

There is also significant potential for further growth in Ontario’s solar industry. The province has a large land area with good solar resources, and there is a growing demand for clean energy. In addition, advances in technology are making solar energy more efficient and cost-effective, which is driving down the cost of solar installations.

Overall, starting a solar farm in Ontario can be a lucrative and rewarding venture. By harnessing the power of the sun, you can contribute to a more sustainable and prosperous future for your community and beyond.

2. Conducting Feasibility Studies

Before starting a solar farm in Ontario, it’s important to conduct a feasibility study. This study will help you determine whether your project is viable and will provide you with a clear understanding of the costs, regulations, and environmental impact of your project. You can hire a third-party consultant to create the feasibility study on your behalf.

Here are some factors you should consider when conducting a feasibility study:

Location Factors

Location is a critical factor when it comes to solar farms. You need to find a suitable location that receives adequate sunlight and is close to the electrical grid. Additionally, you need to consider factors such as land availability, topography, and proximity to population centers. You can use GIS software to analyze the suitability of different locations for solar farms.

Cost Analysis

The cost of setting up a solar farm can be significant. You need to consider expenses such as land acquisition, solar panels, inverters, and installation costs. You should also factor in ongoing expenses such as maintenance, insurance, and property taxes. Conducting a cost analysis will help you determine whether your project is financially viable.

Environmental Impact Assessment

Solar farms can have an impact on the environment. You need to conduct an environmental impact assessment to determine the potential impact on wildlife, water resources, and air quality. You should also consider the impact on nearby communities and whether your project is in compliance with local environmental regulations.

Regulatory and Zoning Considerations

There are many regulations and zoning considerations that you need to be aware of when starting a solar farm in Ontario. You need to obtain the necessary permits and approvals from local and provincial authorities. You should also consider the zoning regulations in the area where you plan to set up your solar farm.

3. Obtaining Necessary Permits and Licenses

Starting a solar farm in Ontario requires obtaining necessary permits and licenses. The Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks is responsible for issuing Renewable Energy Approvals (REA) for most solar, wind, or bio-energy projects in Ontario.

To obtain an REA, you must submit a complete application that includes an environmental impact study, project plans, and a consultation report. The Ministry will review your application and determine whether to approve or deny it.

In addition to the REA, you may need other permits and licenses depending on the location and size of your solar farm. For example, you may need a building permit, a site plan approval, or a zoning bylaw amendment. It is important to research and obtain all necessary permits and licenses before starting construction on your solar farm.


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    To help you navigate the permitting and licensing process, the Ontario government has created an online tool called BizPal. BizPal allows you to search for the permits and licenses you need based on your location, industry, and business activities. Using BizPal can save you time and help ensure that you have all the necessary permits and licenses for your solar farm.

    It is important to note that the permitting and licensing process can be complex and time-consuming. It is recommended that you consult with a lawyer or other professional to ensure that you are in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.

    4. Financing Your Solar Farm

    Starting a solar farm requires a significant investment, but there are a variety of financing options available to help you fund your project. In this section, we’ll explore two main avenues for financing your solar farm: government incentives and private financing.

    Government Incentives

    The Ontario government offers a range of incentives to encourage the development of renewable energy projects, including solar farms. These incentives can help lower the upfront costs of your project and make it more financially viable.

    To take advantage of these incentives, you’ll need to meet certain criteria and follow specific application processes. Use this grant directory to find grants in Ontario.

    Private Financing

    In addition to government incentives, there are a variety of private financing options available to help you fund your solar farm project. Some of the most common private financing options include:

    • Bank Loans: Many banks offer loans specifically designed for renewable energy projects, including solar farms. These loans typically have competitive interest rates and flexible repayment terms.
    • Crowd Funding: Crowd funding platforms allow you to raise funds for your solar farm project from a large number of individual investors. This can be a great way to raise capital quickly and efficiently.
    • Private Equity: Private equity firms can provide funding for your solar farm project in exchange for an ownership stake in the project. This can be a good option if you’re looking for long-term investors who are willing to take on some of the risk of your project.

    Before pursuing any private financing options, it’s important to do your research and carefully consider the terms of any agreements or contracts.

    5. Design and Construction

    When it comes to planning and designing your solar farm, there are a few things you need to consider. Two important sub-sections to consider are Choosing Solar Panels and Installation Process.

    Choosing Solar Panels

    Choosing the right solar panels is essential to the success of your solar farm. There are two main types of solar panels: monocrystalline and polycrystalline. Monocrystalline panels are more efficient and take up less space, but they are also more expensive. Polycrystalline panels are less efficient but are more affordable. You will need to decide which type of panel is best for your budget and space requirements.

    Another factor to consider is the manufacturer of the solar panels. Look for a manufacturer with a good reputation and a track record of producing high-quality panels. You can find reviews and ratings of solar panel manufacturers online.

    Installation Process

    The installation process for your solar farm will involve several steps. First, you will need to prepare the land. This may involve clearing trees or other obstacles, leveling the ground, and installing a fence around the perimeter of the site.

    Next, you will need to install the solar panels. This will involve mounting the panels on racks or frames and connecting them to the electrical system. You will also need to install inverters, which convert the DC electricity produced by the panels into AC electricity that can be used by the grid.

    Finally, you will need to connect your solar farm to the grid. This will involve obtaining the necessary permits and working with your local utility to ensure that your system is connected safely and effectively.

    6. Grid Connection and Testing

    To ensure that your solar farm is connected to the grid and generating power, you need to coordinate with the local utility and conduct testing and commissioning.

    Selling Electricity to Grid

    The Feed-In Tariff and microFIT programs were created by the Ontario government in 2009 and ended in 2018. These programs offered long-term guaranteed pricing and contracts for renewable energy producers, including solar farms. With the end of FIT/microFIT, there is no longer a standardized program or pricing for selling electricity from private solar farms into the grid in Ontario.

    However, it is still possible for private solar farms to sell electricity to the grid, through negotiating power purchase agreements with local distribution companies or the provincial electricity system operator. The pricing and contract terms would be specific to each individual agreement, not based on a standard FIT rate. The solar farm would need to go through technical review and grid connection approval processes.

    Coordination with the Local Utility

    Before connecting your solar farm to the grid, you need to coordinate with the local utility to ensure that your project complies with their interconnection requirements. The utility will typically require you to submit an interconnection application that includes technical details about your solar farm, such as the capacity, voltage, and location. You may also need to provide a system impact study to demonstrate that your solar farm will not negatively impact the grid.

    Testing and Commissioning of the Solar Farm

    After your solar farm is connected to the grid, you need to conduct testing and commissioning to ensure that it is operating correctly. This involves testing the performance of the solar panels, inverters, and other equipment to ensure that they are generating power as expected.

    During commissioning, you will also need to perform a series of tests to verify that your solar farm is operating safely and efficiently. This includes testing the protection systems, voltage regulation, and power quality. You may also need to conduct a system performance test to verify that your solar farm is generating power at the expected level.

    Once testing and commissioning are complete, you can begin generating power and selling it to the grid. However, it is important to continue monitoring the performance of your solar farm to ensure that it is operating efficiently and safely.

    7. Operation and Maintenance

    Once your solar farm is up and running, it’s important to have a solid maintenance plan in place to ensure that your system is working efficiently and producing maximum power output. Here are some tips to help you develop an effective operation and maintenance plan:

    Regular Inspections

    Regular inspections are crucial to identify issues before they become major problems. Inspect your solar panels, inverters, and other equipment regularly to check for any damage, wear and tear, or other issues that may affect performance. You should also inspect the wiring, connectors, and other components to ensure they are functioning correctly.


    Keeping your solar panels clean is essential to ensure maximum power output. Dirt, dust, and other debris can accumulate on the surface of the panels, reducing their efficiency. Regular cleaning can help remove any buildup and keep your panels working at their best. You can use a soft brush or a gentle cleaning solution to clean the panels.

    Preventative Maintenance

    Preventative maintenance can help reduce the risk of unexpected downtime and costly repairs. Develop a maintenance schedule that includes regular checks of your solar panels, inverters, and other equipment. You should also perform routine maintenance tasks such as tightening bolts, cleaning debris from around the panels, and checking for any signs of wear and tear.


    Monitoring your solar farm is essential to identify any issues that may affect performance. Use a monitoring system to track the performance of your solar panels, inverters, and other equipment. This can help you identify any issues before they become major problems and ensure that your system is operating at maximum efficiency.

    8. Frequently Asked Questions

    Ontario has specific regulations for ground-mounted solar panels, including requirements for registering activities in respect of solar facilities. You will need to obtain a Renewable Energy Approval (REA) from the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks for most solar projects in Ontario. For more information, you can refer to the Ontario government’s Small Ground-Mounted Solar Facilities User Guide.

    The cost of starting a solar farm in Ontario depends on various factors, such as the size of the farm, the type of solar panels used, and the location. According to the Solar Energy Industry Association’s average national cost figures in Q1 2021, solar farm installation costs are typically between $0.77- 1.32 per watt. That means that a 1 megawatt solar farm would cost between $770,000 and $1.32 million..

    A solar farm business plan should include information about the market, competitors, target customers, financial projections, and marketing strategies. You can also include information about the solar panels used, the location of the farm, and the team involved.

    Ontario has a strong commitment to clean and renewable sources of energy, making it an ideal location for starting a solar farm. With government incentives and financing options available, there are many opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors to enter the solar energy marke.

    After the ending of Feed-In Tariff and microFIT programs, there is no longer a standardized program or pricing for selling electricity. Private solar farms can sell electricity to the grid, through negotiating power purchase agreements.

    9. Resources for Solar Farms in Ontario

    Government Resources

    Industry Resources

    Other Resources

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