Severn solar farmers promise to replace land
By Sara Ross, QMI Agency March 17, 2013
SEVERN TWP. – Developers of a proposed Cambrian Road solar farm are promising to replace the farmland they take away and add more.
“We’d like to introduce a sheep flock so that it still remains a working farm despite the fact a lot of it will be covered in solar panels,” David Tanko, director of Mariposa Solar Farm Inc., said.
The company is planning to install roughly 40,000 ground- mounted solar panels on 100-acres of farmland at 1692 Cambrian Rd. in Severn Township.
The property, which houses an abandoned farmhouse, is currently being leased to a tenant farmer.
Though the land yields a crop, 98% is ranked Class 4 to 7 agricultural land, Tanko said.
Solar projects cannot be built on the best agricultural land — classes 1 and 2. Class 3 is limited to 500 kilowatts. Everything else, up to Class 7, the worst land to farm, is open to solar development.
“There is a concern by some that we’re taking agricultural land out of production,” Tanko said. “We recognize … this community is … an agricultural community, first and foremost.”
Once the solar farm is built, Mariposa Solar Farm Inc. will seed the ground with a low-growing forage crop, including Ontario red clover and Ontario fescue.
“We’re also considering beekeeping because the clover will bloom,” Tanko said, adding the shading caused by solar panels is not harmful.
The company is also promising not to introduce any chemicals, herbicides or pesticides to the property.
“Technically, it will be an organic farm,” Tanko said.
The site would be fenced to protect the solar panels, so the sheep will be safe from predators, he said.
The land would be leased to an interested farmer.
“We’d lease the land at something nominal. We wouldn’t be looking to make any serious money,” Tanko said.
If the solar project goes forward, the company will also purchase poor-quality farmland nearby, upgrade it and lease it.
“(We’ll) lease it out for at least the 20 years of our electricity contract,” Tanko said. “If our project goes ahead, the community will have more farmland than less.”
Mariposa Solar Farm Inc. has already been investigating potential farm sites.
“We’ve done our research. We’ve looked at several properties to get a handle on what’s available and how much it costs,” Tanko said.
Asked why it is offering farmland, Tanko said, “We’d like to have everybody onside.”
Tanko is based in Toronto and his partner is based in Caledon Hills. They developed Mariposa Solar Farm Inc. solely for this project.
The project will cost $30 million to build. Tanko is encouraging local companies — especially electrical contractors — to apply for the construction contracts.
“We’ll do everything we can to involve local businesses,” he said. “There (are) no guarantees. It has to be subject to bids.”
On recommendation from Severn Township council, the company is holding a public information session March 18.
“They had some concerns and we want to put those concerns to rest,” Tanko said. “We’re an open book.”
The session — open to all Simcoe County residents — will be held in the Christian Fellowship Chapel — at 1296 Cambrian Rd. at the corner of Carlyon Line — from 4 to 8 p.m.
AWARE Simcoe note: This article ran in the Packet and Times with a photo of a rooftop solar installation. This is not the type of installation that is the subject of the controversy in this article – namely use of farmland for industrial solar energy production.