MIDHURST – Local municipalities need to retain some control over where solar and wind energy projects are located, the County of Simcoe insists.
County planning staff prepared preliminary comments regarding the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, a sweeping bill that amends an array of legislation including the Planning Act, the Building Code, the Ontario Water Resources Act and the influential Places to Grow Act.
“The speed at which this new legislation is being introduced, and the relatively short period of time provided for public consultation, leaves us with concerns at the potential implications and implementation logistics of such broad changes to so many other acts,” said Kathy Suggitt, the county’s policy planning manager. “There needs to be more time for consultation and discussion.”
The county has been struggling with applications for solar and wind projects. Last fall, in its official plan update, it allowed alternative-energy projects on agricultural land.
Currently, there is an application for a wind farm on county forest land in Tiny Township, and a solar farm in Oro-Medonte; Innisfil, which also has an application for a wind farm, has struck a committee to examine the issue.
The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) has said renewable-energy projects should not be allowed on Class 1, 2 and 3 agricultural lands, as well as environmental protection lands, sites adjacent to airports, significant woodlands, provincially significant wetlands, significant woodlands and wellhead protection areas.
Oro-Medonte Deputy Mayor Ralph Hough said that is too restrictive.
“No one wants renewable-energy sources, but everyone wants their energy,” he said. “You can’t put solar on rocky hillsides, and they have to be near a power line or a highway. I don’t see what’s left for alternative energy if we support AMO’s position. We either want alternative energy or we don’t.”
Tiny Township Deputy Mayor George Lawrence, however, warned the county’s corporate services committee that solar panels can wipe out the prime agricultural land on which they’re located.
“These panels, through their heat and hydro loss, actually sterilize the soil. This has happened in Europe, and farming was unsuccessful for eight to 10 years (afterwards),” he said.
“We have to be particular about where we put them. We should protect Class 1, 2 and 3 agricultural land. Do we want to have air conditioning or do we want to eat?”