Editor of The Brockville Recorder & Times
You’ll have to excuse us if we don’t completely share the sunny enthusiasm with which some corners greeted last week’s announcement regarding nearly 200 new alternative energy projects approved in Ontario.
As we reported Saturday, several of those solar (as well as one wind and one biogas) power generation installations are to be built in Leeds and Grenville.
Don’t get us wrong, we’re all for free enterprise, development and also recognize the need to start weaning our society off of fossil fuels.
However, in the mad scramble to embrace so-called “green” energy, too many serious questions about the individual projects and the impact on communities are being ignored. (Not to mention the fundamental flaw in the strategy -an artificially inflated pricing structure that’s made such large-scale projects so lucrative.)
It’s remarkable, frankly, that so many people are willing to accept the rules established under Ontario’s Green Energy Act, rules which basically allow large solar and wind farms to be set up almost without any local control.
The reason? The large companies behind them have wrapped themselves in the warm, feel-good blanket of environmentalism, making them almost immune to criticism.
It has become a motherhood issue and anyone not on board is branded a NIMBY type, or worse, a dinosaur clinging to dirty coal, oil and natural gas.
Imagine the outcry, though, if housing or industrial developers had the same licence to start projects without the need to bother with the municipal approval process.
And make no mistake, these renewable energy sites -some with more than 50,000 solar panels -will cause great upheaval in neighbourhoods during construction and permanently change the landscape in eastern Ontario.
Worse, when the work is done, the company simply locks a gate and drives away to collect the guaranteed revenue from Ontario’s Feed-in Tariff (FIT) program.
The bottom line for the host municipality, in most cases, is no local jobs created and no new tax revenue from the land upon which the projects are built.
That last point was raised in our recent article by Rideau Lakes Township Mayor Ron Holman, whose municipality will host several of these solar farm sites.
Holman raised the critical point, one that has been too quickly overlooked by a provincial government eager to prove its environmental bona fides at any cost.
“It’s a good end product,” said Holman, “but it’s just a question of how we get them and the best land use.”
In other words, the end doesn’t necessarily justify the means.