Green energy projects
Hamilton Township municipal councillors have voted unanimously to declare the township an "unwilling host" for any future large, green-energy, solar and wind projects.
It joins Alnwick/Haldimand which took similar action last February. Alnwick/Haldimand council's motion addresses only industrial wind turbine farms located on the Oak Ridges Moraine. It also requests a moratorium on all industrial wind installations until such time as low frequency noise and infrasound study is reviewed “and mitigated through the Renewable Energy Approval process” along with “conclusive and independent clinical health studies that eliminate the potential of adverse impacts to health, safety and well-being of the public.
Hamilton Township declared itself an “unwilling host” during Tuesday's council session even before holding a much-promised public meeting to ascertain what its citizens actually want. But it has already received criticism about on-going construction of a private, mega-solar farm near Community Centre and Payne roads.
The provincial government's Green Energy Act means the ultimate decisions still remain with the government, Deputy Mayor Isobel Hie said, drawing attention to the reality of the power of the motion.
Despite comments made by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne shortly after assuming office, that people would be consulted first about future infrastructure, no new regulations have been put specifically in place, although municipal "support" for a project now provides a greater score on applications that receive it.
If township residents say at the upcoming public information meeting that they want large solar and wind projects, "we can rescind" the motion about being an "unwilling host," said Councillor Donna Cole who introduced the motion and has been pushing for the designation for months.
Cole argued council needs to make its intentions known now before any other contracts are signed.
There was significant discussion about whether all solar and wind projects would be unacceptable, even small solar rooftop and small field installations, but Cole finally identified those larger megawatt projects as the ones the township wants to avoid (the exact number was estimated at 10 megawatts – but is to be checked and changed, if necessary).
Mayor Mark Lovshin pointed out that policing small installations, about which council gets no notification, would be impossible.
"It's showing our due diligence" in letting developers and the provincial government know "our point of view" in passing the motion now, Councillor John Davidson said in supporting Cole's motion.
Deputy Mayor Isobel Hie noted that proposals for mega solar and wind projects have already pitted families and neighbours against one another.
She was referring to Clean Breeze's now defunct wind tower projects near Grafton and Centreton which a grassroots organization has fought for the past several years, including filing a lawsuit over potential property devaluation due to the proposals.
"What would it mean to our project here?" asked Councillor Gary Woods, referring to the 2,000-square-foot, $450,000 municipal office expansion at Camborne. Its building committee is examining the installation of solar panels as a way of reducing energy costs and staff are evaluating different options. The solar options for the municipal expansion would not be affected because of the size involved, councillors were told.
Cole called for a recorded vote which meant the mayor, who was chairing the meeting and normally only votes in a tie situation, had to vote. Mayor Lovshin joined the rest of council in supporting the "unwilling host" designation.
Asked if this motion would impede the township's deal with Northumberland Community Power Co-Operative INC to install a rooftop solar project on the Baltimore Recreation Centre and rent the space for it, chief administrative officer John Baird said this was already in progress and the motion addresses only future projects. The Co-Operative project is expected to generate 217 kilowatts of power and the lease will bring the township $9,796 annually.
At the moment, the Co-Operative's board of directors is not contemplating large green energy projects, said one of its spokesmen, Richard Tyssen. There are no other projects proposed in the township at this time, he said.
Like Baird, Tyssen did not see the township's "unwilling host" designation by its council as impeding the Baltimore Recreation Centre rooftop project that has received initial notification from the Ontario Power Authority that it is eligible. It will be another 60 days before it knows it has won the competition for connecting the project to the power grid.