Council, residents oppose huge solar farm

July 29, 2015   ·   0 Comments

Canadian Solar Inc. and Suncor have expressed interest in converting 150 acres of farmland in Mono into a 24.5 megawatt solar farm, and local residents are not impressed.

At Mono Council on Tuesday morning, the issue was brought before council as a point of discussion, although the application does not rest on the Town’s approval or disapproval.

Announced last week, the application, which is due in September, would see over 110,000 ground-mounted solar panels on the proposed property in Mono.

The project, called the Sheldon Solar Farm, is part of an attempt to create more green energy options, but local residents are arguing that utilizing prime farmland for a such a project is not a benefit to the community.

The site is on the Mono-Adjala Townline north of the Sheldon Creek valley.

“Is it Mono’s stance that ground-mounted solar panels would be in contradiction to land use in rural areas?” asked Elaine Capes, a Mono resident and former councillor. “Is council prepared to take a stand on disallowing such a use on lands designated as rural areas?”

The answer to that question was an overwhelming yes by members of Council, excluding Mayor Laura Ryan who had dismissed herself from the discussion due to a pecuniary interest in the matter.

In 2013, there was another application for such a farm, but the applicant withdrew due to too many issues surrounding the feasibility of the project, as well as the overwhelming number of concerned citizens who were against the project. Based on the reaction from members of the public at the council meeting, as well as members of council, this project will be met with the same opinion.

“As a Council, we have supported the micro-FIT programs in the past, and there are many places in town that have solar panels,” said Deputy Mayor Ken McGhee. “We are not against green energy, and we’re not opposed to solar energy. But we have not dealt with a project of this scale before.”

Although in a situation like this, the applicants usually seek a letter of support from the affected municipality to help in getting the Province’s blessing, the applicants have not made such a request at this point.

“You haven’t been asked to bless it with holy water, as it is,” said Planning Director Mark Early. “But, you can present comments by council as residents of the area, along with comments from residents. We’ve posted the application on the website, and there is considerable opposition to the application.”

So far, the Town of Mono has received little information regarding the application, and as one resident pointed out during the public question period, there are discrepancies in the maps provided, highlighting where the farm will take place. At this point, it seems both Council and local residents will have to wait for a public meeting, booked for Wednesday, August 19, to find out more about the application.

In the meantime, Council passed a resolution to prepare a written submission to the Province expressing their opposition and concerns surrounding the project, as well as those of the residents.

Along with citing the previous application, and the large amount of opposition, the resolution also provided a list of serious concerns. These included:

• he introduction of an industrial use into a rural area;

• he impact of development (panels and fencing) on wildlife corridors in the area;

• he significant loss of Bobolink habitat, a species on the Provincial Species at Risk list;

• he loss of productive agricultural land;

• he significant increase in impermeable surfaces and loss of groundwater to recharge the area;

• ignificant increase of run-off and erosion resulting from the increase in impermeable surfaces;

• oss of mature tree canopy along transmission lines;

• otential environmental contamination from improper transmission line installation;

• he long-term environmental and financial costs required to return these lands to productive agriculture following the useful life of this infrastructure;

• esthetics and visual compatibility of this major industrial facility with neighbouring residential and rural residential lands;

• he limits and boundaries of the subject property are under a current legal dispute.

The concerns, as well as residents’ correspondence, will be forwarded to a number of parties, including the IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator), the applicant, Premier Kathleen Wynne, the Minister of Energy, MPP Sylvia Jones, the Township of Adjala-Tosorontio, Dufferin County, Simcoe County, the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority and the Ministry of Natural Resources for their consideration.

The public meeting by the applicants will be held August 19 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Mono Community Centre.

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