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Solar farm approved west of Waterford

117-acre installation large enough to power entire town

Simcoe Reformer: MONTE SONNENBERG - Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A solar installation approved last night may play a big part in supplying Waterford's future energy needs.

Consulting engineer John Vallee of Simcoe, agent for Great Lakes Solar Utilities, told Norfolk council that the 117-acre installation west of town will produce enough electricity to power 1,200 homes. That, Vallee said, would be more than enough to keep Waterford going on a sunny day.

Great Lakes Solar Utilities is a division of EPOD Solar, which manages solar installations in the Niagara area, North Bay, Timmins, Thunder Bay and on the west coast.

"They are active in the development of this technology throughout southern Ontario," Vallee said. "This is not a company making a first attempt at solar energy."

Norfolk council approved the project with little discussion. During the public meeting called last night to discuss the proposal, no one stepped forward to object.

"It's a good, solid application," planner Shirley Cater said. "We see no problems with it."

The 10-megawatt installation will be built in two phases over three years on farmland at the intersection of Thompson Road and Highway 24. Phase 1 will see panels installed capable of generating four megawatts of power. Phase 2 will boast a peak capacity of six megawatts.

While no one objected to the proposal, EPOD Solar will have to take steps to satisfy approving agencies.

The Ministry of Transport has advised the proponents that they will have to buffer the installation from motorists heading north on Highway 24. MTO says the solar farm will present a glare hazard on sunny days between the hours of 6:15 a.m. and 9:45 a.m. EPOD intends to address the problem with berms or mature trees or a combination of both.

As well, the Long Point Region Conservation Authority has asked EPOD to stay away from a woodlot on the property and "an area of conservation interest" which includes a cold water municipal drain and a potential groundwater recharge area. EPOD will comply.

This is the third solar installation approved in Norfolk since 2007. Skypower Corporation of Toronto has approvals for two large solar installations, one on Highway 24 south of Simcoe at Port Ryerse Road and the other in Windham Township north of Simcoe.

Last night, Chris Baird, Norfolk's general manager of planning and economic development, said Skypower will have to install a municipal drain on its land west of Port Ryerse before it can proceed. Once that is done, Baird expects Skypower to proceed with construction of both installations simultaneously, most likely later this year.

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