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Kinghaven a model for sustainable energy

January 22, 2014   ·   0 Comments

By Mark Pavilons
The day will come when alternative forms of energy will not only make sense, but actually replace conventional methods of generation.
And a local blueprint has come from a world-class equine operation.
Kinghaven Farms is quickly becoming a robust model of sustainability, thanks to its solar-power operation and pursuit of green energy. The concept of a fully sustainable co-operative community will one day be a reality.
It’s “inconceivable” that the old ways of producing electricity in this province will ultimately survive in their current state, according to Jay Willmot, founder and managing director of Kinghaven Energy Consultants Ltd.
The goal of making the renowned thoroughbred horse breeding operation self-sustainable has ballooned into the creation of a viable co-op. It’s poised to be a micro grid producer of electricity and energy derived from biogas. Willmot is quite passionate about taking green energy as far as it can go.
Currently, the farm boasts 1,081 solar panels on its barn rooftops, producing 265kW, through the provincial government’s Feed-in Tariff project (FIT). They’ve applied for an additional 1.2MW of solar PV capacity, as well as permission to develop a 100kW on-site biogas facility. Willmot said the property is well suited to the non-invasive solar arrays. In order to accommodate half of the additional capacity, he hopes to build a new training facility on a spot of land at the centre of an indoor oval track. As well, there are plans for ground-mount solar panels.
While researching for his master’s degree in environmental studies at York University, he was accepted to law school. He turned his research into a practical application on the home farm, grabbing the bull by the horns. While the application process took some time, they broke ground in March 2012 and turned on the switch Dec. 18, 2012.
Willmot admits that solar, while initially costly, is fairly easy to install and is largely a “plug and play” system.
Government policy and approach to FIT applications has evolved over time and Queen’s Park has recognized that community led projects should be given priority.
Solar, Willmot notes, is a tried and true method with minimal environmental impacts and no public concern. The evolutionary process in the province has been a gradual one in comparison to other jurisdictions. Ontario has been a bit handcuffed by our regulatory system, Willmot observed and a political “weighing of interests.”
The last few years, however, have seen a push for green energy initiatives, taking public sentiment into account.
As it grows and evolves, the FIT mechanism will eventually take public debt off the books as new projects come on stream. Part of the historic problem with energy plant construction is huge capital costs and “stranded debt.”
Willmot applied his undergraduate degree in commerce from Dalhousie to his family farm, creating a financial plan to address the challenges facing the horse industry over the past decade. He not only built a niche focus for himself, but has created a long-term plan for Kinghaven’s survival.
He explored all the typical green energy alternatives and decided solar made the most sense.
At this stage, the system provides free cash flow equivalent to roughly 20 per cent of Kinghaven’s annual operating expenses, and acts as a working model for others. When the next two builds come to fruition, Willmot said he’s aiming to generate free cash flows in excess of 60 per cent of the farming business’s expenses through electricity sales. The bio-digester represents a system to recycle on-farm waste, such as animal manure and other organic waste from the community to create usable byproducts in an environmentally sustainable manner. The organic decomposition process creats biogas (mainly comprised of methane), which is collected, stored and combusted to generate electricity and heat. Secondary byproducts include the creation of fully organic liquid fertilizer for crops and peat-like mulch, which can be used as bedding for farm animals.
Kinghaven is also encouraging greater community involvement through Kinghaven Renewable Energy Cooperative Inc., a co-operative corporation whose members comprise 35 local residents, demonstrating their support in the concept. Willmot said members can invest and become partners in the upcoming expansion, but there’s no obligation. Ultimately, members who do invest will see a return.
Willmot calls this a “democratization of energy” – bringing energy production and distribution into the community. It’s really a proactive approach to meeting our own energy needs and it gives people a chance to get involved.
“It builds flexibility and a robust nature into the grid,” Willmot observed.
Technologies continue to improve and get cheaper as time goes on. Even in the time Kinghaven’s project went from application to reality, costs dropped considerably.
The whole energy system will likely evolve into a smart grid that’s data-driven – basically taking generation and delivery where and when you need it.
While Ontario has been the North American leader since the inception of the OPA Feed-in Tariff program in 2009, the United States is swiftly establishing itself as a global driver in green energy development. California is a perennial leader in new green energy construction and nearby New York State has committed roughly $1 billion to develop initiatives over the next couple of years. Ontario, Willmot said, is not moving fast enough by comparison, but “we have our foot in the door.”
He anticipates solar PV will achieve grid parity in Ontario by 2018 or sooner. The main stumbling block with green energy is “inertia.” Solar and biogas are two sure ways to make a difference.
“We have to change our way of thinking on how we generate our electricity and handle our waste,” he said.
We’ve done things a certain way for so long, it’s still a challenge to change attitudes and move forward, but “it will happen.”
“It just makes sense,” he said.
We will get to the point where alternative forms of energy make sense, are inexpensive, offer minimal impact to the environment, and allow the community to get involved.
Regarding his current application, Willmot expects word by March regarding whether his application has been accepted to proceed to the next round of screening and, if successful, hopes to know by mid-June if Kinghave will receive a new contract offer.
Willmot also offers  consulting services related to the development of renewable energy in Ontario. He helps clients identify key regulatory and business planning considerations involved in developing a successful renewable power project or implementing energy efficiency practices.
Willmot and Kinghaven are on track to becoming great champions of sustainability. With a successful made-in-King solution, they are definitely role models.
If you’d like to find out more about KEC, visit www.kinghavenenergy.ca or send an email to jwillmot@kinghavenenergy.ca.

         

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