Battle over solar farms heats up as sun power faces detractors
By Sara Ross Midland Free Press July 7 2010
Seven large solar-panel projects proposed for Severn and Oro-Medonte townships have to go through a “rigorous” government process before seeing the light of day, says Robert Leah, director of development with Recurrent Energy.
About 60 concerned citizens from both townships attended a public meeting in Hawkestone Tuesday evening in hopes of learning more about the project –including how they can fight it.
“The renewable approval process is pretty rigourous, so it’s not a slam dunk that this happens,” Leah said. “There are opportunities for the folks to show this is offering irreparable harm.”
Recurrent Energy, a San Francisco-based independent power producer, was awarded the local contracts by the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) in April.
Oro-Medonte resident Bernard Pope, who created Ontario Farmland Preservation, says his group is concerned about farmland loss and negative environmental impacts.
“What I want is a moratorium on these solar farms,” he said.
The Orillia Fish and Game Conservation Club is worried the proposed solar panel site adjacent to the Langman Wildlife Sanctuary located at the 14th Concession of Oro-Medonte Township, will affect wildlife, said president Ted Duncan.
Though a bird sanctuary, there are also deer on site, he said.
“A concern I had was about the movement of animals,” Duncan said. “Would they all have to go around these things?”
Recurrent Energy must address all concerns in its proposal to the Ministry of Environment, Leah said.
“Certainly there are valid concerns, but I believe we have valid answers for all of them,” he said. “I believe we can mitigate all of these. There may be people that just aren’t happy because they don’t believe it should be used period. I can’t help that.”
After the government decides the fate of the projects, there is an appeal process, Leah said.
Oro-Medonte Mayor Harry Hughes attended the meeting to hear the concerns, he said.
“Council’s position really right now is (they) wait to hear the information before them to make a decision,” Hughes said.
Because the provincial Green Energy Act took municipalities “out of the picture” in making decisions on the projects, Hughes was interested to learn there is an appeal process.
“The township, in terms of being able to do something, will come down to rights an ordinary citizen might have in order to appeal something,” he said.
For specific information on Recurrent Energy’s solar-panel projects in your area, visit www.ontariosolarfuture.ca.
There are two other public meetings planned: one took place last month and the other is tonight, Wednesday, July 7 from 6-9 p.m. at the Coldwater Community Centre.