Ontario to host North America's largest solar farm
Submitted by OCAA on Thu, 04/26/2007 - 23:30.
The Ottawa Citizen
TORONTO — Ontario’s decision to host North America’s largest solar farm is a step in the right direction, but the relatively large project is just a fraction of the total energy supply and does little to clean up the province’s act, critics said Thursday.
Ontario plans to bring 14 renewable energy projects online by 2010 including a 40 megawatt solar farm in Sarnia, Ont., which will be built by OptiSolar Farms and consist of over one million ground-mounted solar panels.
While critics said they were supportive of almost any renewable energy project that helps wean the province off traditional sources, they insisted the solar plans don’t excuse the government’s continued focus on coal and nuclear technologies.
“We really need a much more aggressive approach on both renewables and (energy conservation) and we’re still not getting that,” said Dave Martin of Greenpeace Canada.
“The solar project is a small part of the bigger picture and ultimately we’re faced with a government that has cancelled its phase out of coal generation and is planning to invest ... in nuclear power.”
And while the project is being billed as large, it’s actually far from ambitious, said Mark Winfield of the Pembina Institute.
“The target the Ontario Power Authority set for solar by 2025 is met by this single plant,” Winfield said.
“Clearly there’s an awful lot more potential out there for solar and we need a better strategy for realizing that.”
Energy Minister Dwight Duncan acknowledged the solar project represents only about two-tenths of one per cent of Ontario’s total generating capacity, but said it will create enough clean energy to power about 6,000 homes and takes pressure off the grid.
The solar farm and other 13 projects — including two partnerships with First Nations communities and several wind farms — fall under the Renewable Standard Offer Program, which means the companies will pay for capital costs and receive a preferential rate for the energy they produce.
The program now has 36 projects under offer, which will contribute 250 megawatts of clean energy, enough for 56,000 homes, and do a small part to avert an energy crisis.
“We have to make sure we get every kilowatt of power from these clean, green renewable sources of energy before we do anything,” Duncan said.
Jack Gibbons of Pollution Probe applauded the government move and said the province should build thousands more of these projects rather than more nuclear reactors.
“What we need to do is move away from the mega-project paradigm, that is not the way of the future,” Gibbons said.
“The lowest cost and the most reliable options to meet our needs in the future are small-scale renewable projects.”
But New Democrat critic Peter Tabuns said the solar plans are more about public relations than anything else.
“Fundamentally this is a government that’s going to go nuclear and it’s going to make announcements about smaller projects to make it look as though it’s green,” Tabuns said.
“The core of its strategy is going big on nuclear, that’s the story that’s behind all of these feel-good announcements.”