Woolwich council is prepared to support the solar-powered generating projects currently on its agenda, but won’t write a blank cheque for renewable energy projects.
Three rooftop solar arrays gained municipal support this week, boosting the chances they’ll be accepted by the Ontario Power Authority, which regulates the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) program.
Elmira Self Storage proposes to build an array at 100 South Field Drive in Elmira. Hendrick Holdings (Elmira Stove Works) has plans for a project at 53 Howard Ave., Elmira. And Solar Power Network wants to build collectors on the roof of Van-Del Contracting at 835 Sawmill Rd. in Bloomingdale.
In a report to councillors meeting Tuesday night, township clerk Christine Broughton recommended they endorse each of the applications, but refrain from a blanket resolution of support for green energy projects. Looking at applications on a case-by-case basis would give council more control, she said.
While agreeing council should be cautious, a delegate to the meeting noted the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) often has deadlines that don’t take into account the schedules of municipal governments. The window of opportunity for new projects can be too brief for a full review by local governments.
With that in mind, Derek Satnik of Mindscape Innovations – at council to support the projects – recommended the township look at ways to delegate to staff some of the smaller projects, especially solar arrays, which have been far less controversial than biogas or wind turbines, for example.
An electrical engineer with more than decade’s experience dealing with green energy, he said the OPA often changes its rules and programs with short notice, making it even more difficult to provide a blanket endorsement.
“You can pass a motion tonight, and three months down the road … they can just change things.”
Coun. Julie-Anne Herteis suggested staff look at ways of streamlining the process for small-scale projects, while Coun. Mark Bauman argued against carte blanche approvals, as that would take away the chance for public input. Wind, biogas and even large-scale solar should come to council, he said.
Chief administrative officer David Brenneman suggested staff would come back with a report outlining a policy, a set of criteria for delegating approval to staff in some circumstances.