NEWS FROM THE RURAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE: SOLAR FARM IN OUR NEIGHBOURHOOD

At the meeting of the Rural Advisory Committee, (RAC), on June 22, renewable energy companies made presentations about solar farm projects in our neighbourhoods. One such project, if accepted by the Province of Ontario, would see the building of a solar panel array on the land along Montreal/Battersea Road north of Kingston Mills Road and south of Riverside Drive, Edenwood. When completed it will be a different sight than the slowly reforesting meadow that is now there.

On our way to or from Kingston we will not be able to miss it. The potential site is shown here.

solar map cropped

The area bound by Montreal or Battersea Road running north on the left of the photo, Kingston Mills Road  at the bottom, and River Ridge Drive of Battersea Road at the north side. Note that there is a substantial second growth forest in the north east section of the site; that might not be preserved.

solar map cropped to site

The actual proposed site for the solar panels and infrastructure, cropped from the photo above. To the left is Montreal/Battersea Road, at the bottom is Kingston Mills Road. More than half the site is forest.

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There are reasons that we might have to accept such a development: it is non-polluting at least during its operation; it gives us part of our electric energy that we use for our comfort; and having the energy produced locally seems beneficial for our environment. This is my own opinion and others might disagree with that. I don’t think the local municipality can stop it as it is mostly or all under Provincial jurisdiction. However under the new provincial law the host community and city can requires that guidelines be followed to mitigate the solar farm’ impact. This is where we as neighbours can make some impact by providing input at the open house coming up.

Already, an observer of municipal affairs said, “By replacing fossil fuels to generate electricity and thus cleaning our environment, we should not create visible pollution.” A very wise observation, indeed.

Under the “Large Renewable Procurement” program or LRP — bureaucrats are wont of using abbreviations–the local authorities have a somewhat stronger voice in the development of renewable energy projects of larger scale.

So, how should we react?

You can send your feelings and opinions to the Rural Advisory Committee at the City Website and/or contact your councillor Richard Allen, who welcomes your input, or just voice your opinion on our neighbourhood website by sending me an email at weversh@queensu.ca.

The City has prepared a Report to the Rural Advisory Committee, reference: RAC-15-009 which can be downloaded from the address  below. It includes several attachments.

One such an attachment relates to “Landscaping and Site Design Guidelines”. In this document the company must submit a plan that includes a “Visual Appearance and Impact Guideline”. This allows us to suggest effective and visually appropriate measures to protect neighbouring properties from undesirable glare, lighting that projects its beams downwards and avoids light pollution of the night sky, and methods of screening the plant from public road.

We will never see a nice dense forest habitat for wildlife on those acres, but the impact on our daily lives might be mitigated by these landscape guidelines.

My idea of properly screening a site like this is different from what we see at the current solar farms on Unity Road.

solar farm unity road trees

Note the double ,widely, spaced row of scrawny cedar trees, most of them dead, is not a good visual screening method. First they are too small, secondly when they die in their first year of planting, the next replacements will again be too low for proper visual effect, and whey they die the process starts all over with no real growth to greater height in several years after opening the solar farm.

solar farm unitiy road a

The “visual tree barrier” seen from the gate of the solar farm on Unity Road.

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Planting a row of small evergreens that don’t seem to thrive as lone protectors of the site is not enough. A berm of some height that screens the site from eye level view in the first year, with enough breadth that trees can be planted and thrive on its cresst, and with a second and third row of trees between this berm and the road, would create a viable natural barrier with some habitat for smaller wildlife. This could also serve as a corridor from one forested parcel to the other. This would at least mitigate somewhat the habitat loss from the area under the solar panels.

At the north side of the proposed area is a dense secondary forest that would protect the Edenwood neighbourhood from the visual effects of the panel array and would also preserve some habitat. The company representatives did not indicate how much land would be cleared. However there will be a public meeting in July so keep that in mind, it will be announced in the Whig and on the City website. We will also alert you in time to prepare for your attendance and input.

Another concern was pointed out at the RAC meeting by a citizen who currently lives in the area where large solar farm building is in progress. The racks that support the solar collectors are supported by 6 feet wide concrete blocks poured on bedrock or sufficiently deep to bear the weight of the equipment. What happens if after a twenty year period on contract with Ontario Power Generation, the company walks away from operating the farm? Is there a sufficient strong clause in these contracts that the company sets aside, in trust, an amount of money for rehabilitation of the land in case the plant ceases operation? A friend of mine who is much involved with the Amherst Island wind farm has severe doubt that the municipality and taxpayer is protected against the cost of returning the site to viable pasture or forest when the life of the plant has reached its end.

In closing have a look at this potential new development in our neighbourhood and give your thoughts and input at the, to be announced, Open House or right away by contacting your Councillor.

Websites and documents: Large Renewable Procurement program Report RAC-15-009 at: https://www.cityofkingston.ca/documents/10180/9818771/RAC_A0415-15009.pdf/1e1ec13d-e575-489b-9598-0b4a0ea0315e

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For other topics see the INDEX, to get there, just click the compass.

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