The study area of this research project is the province of Ontario (Fig.1). Ontario has 1,076395 km2 of land (Statistics Canada, 2005), and a population of 13.79 million (Statistics Canada, 2015), making it the most populous province in Canada. Ontario extends from 42°N to 57°N latitude and from 75°W to 95° W longitude. The bedrock geology is variable in lithology structure, with 61% of Ontario underlain by Precambrian rock and the Canadian Shield. The topography of Ontario varies from flat plains, to rolling uplands, escarpments, cuestas and mountains reaching 693m above sea level (Baldwin et al). There are 104 PV farms in Ontario with system outputs greater than one megawatt (MW) which are used in this study.
Ontarians consumed 139.8 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2014 (IESO, 2016). The majority of electricity in Ontario is generated by nuclear, followed by hydroelectric, natural gas and coal. Solar energy accounts for 1% of electricity generated in Ontario currently, but is increasing at an annual compound growth of 13.8% since 2004 (Ontario Ministry of Energy, 2015b). In 2009, Ontario implemented the Green Energy and Green Economy Act (GEA) which aimed to expand renewable energy generation, providing jobs for Ontarians, and creating more energy efficient measures to conserve energy (Ontario Ministry of Energy, 2015). Under this act, the renewable energy Feed-In Tariff (FIT) Program was introduced. The program gives the opportunity to owners of renewable energy technologies to enter a 20-year fixed-term contract with the Ontario Power Authority whereby they will be paid in turn for providing energy to the electrical grid (Wiginton et al., 2010). Locating sites for PV farms in Ontario is an important issue since the government is offering incentives, such as the FIT Program compensation, for creating and using renewable energy.