Sophiasburgh: Saturated in Solar
Across Prince Edward County there are now five large scale solar projects. Three of these, Belleville North on Burr Rd., Belleville South on Hwy 62 and Belleville TS Demorestville on Black Rd., are within a 5 km radius skirting Highway 62 east and west.
Skypower is now seeking contracts from the IESO (Independent Electrical Systems Operator) for six additional large scale solar projects. Two of these six projects are slated for Sophiasburg within the already saturated 5 km radius.
The map below shows the three established sites (the three orange areas) as well as the two Skypower proposed sites (outlined in black).
Kevin Gale, a PEC Councillor, noted the following in an article looking at the density of solar projects across the county:
“It is clear that density is becoming an issue in the north end of Prince Edward County. I don’t know what the criteria is or what it should be but I know that if you went up in a hot air balloon or an airplane right now… you’d find the majority of the solar projects are in one targeted area in Sophiasburgh and Ameliasburgh.” (Ibbotson, C, “Council looks to staff to report on density of solar projects across county”, Picton Gazette, March 13, 2013)
Former Councilor Terry Shortt added:
“We have to establish some more criteria for ourselves because one of the things we are finding out is that concentration is going to be a problem….We may have to look as a council and say that one area is saturated.”
The proliferation of large solar is especially concerning in the area of Sophiasburgh at the corner of Black and Doxsee Rd. If saturation is not a problem now with the addition of Skypower’s “PureLight” proposed project, it certainly will become so.
If Skypower’s” PureLight” 8-megawatt project is granted a contract it will sit next to Canadian Solar’s 9-megawatt project. This will result in approximately 170 acres of continuous solar. It would mean 85,000 solar panels, 6000 drilled steel posts, 36 aluminum invertor garages, two gravel set down areas and 2 generating stations each with a substation and communication tower. This all at the corner of Black and Doxsee Rd.
The “solarization” of the additional 80 acres also will mean more loss of vulnerable plant life like the climbing prairie rose and four-leaved milkweed as well as a further reduction in breeding ground for the endangered bobolink and eastern meadowlark. (http://www.purelightsolar.com) (p. 28, Table 3-5)
The area around Black and Doxsee Rd. is a rural residential community made up of a mixture of homes on small properties, woodland and working farms. Corn, soy and hay fields as well as pastures for grazing cows and sheep dot the landscape. These large scale solar projects are turning what was a quiet, natural, rural neighbourhood into an industrial park.
And what will this corner look like in twenty years? Solar panels and solar contracts do not have a long life (approximately 20 years). Some projects have as part of their approval a promise to bring the land back to its original state. Will these approvals still be viable after 20 years and numerous owners? (Since its inception Belleville TS Demorestville has already had three owners.) Will there be hundreds of acres of rusting panels leaking cadmium, described in a recent Globe article as a “conflict mineral”? (Yakabuski, K, “The darker side of solar power”, The Globe and Mail, May 29, 2015).
This is a description of what is occurring in one corner of Prince Edward County. There are two more large scale solar projects proposed for Hallowell, one for North Marysburgh and one for South Marysburgh. If these 6 new contracts are granted by IESO, the county will have 11 large solar projects in total and will lose hundreds of acres of agricultural land, numerous breeding grounds for endangered species and vulnerable plant life. And these are the only the first proposed sites; more could follow.
Skypower held its second community meeting on Thursday June 4, 2015 at the Sophiasburgh Town Hall. All comments and questions from the community will be published as part of “The Community Engagement Plan” and become part of the contract application.
Skypower will be seeking approval from PEC council for their proposed solar projects soon after the community meeting (probably mid June).
If you have concerns about the proliferation of large scale solar in Prince Edward County, please contact your local Councillor.
Carol Page-Heyding, Sophiasburgh