Recently announced rules restricting solar power projects on Ontario’s best farmland has made Don McCabe a happy man.
The Lambton County farmer is vice-president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) and an outspoken opponent of building solar farms on land where crops could grow.
“I’m more than happy to eat in the dark if my only power can come from solar panels on farmland,” McCabe said.
The provincial government announced its Green Energy regulations recently, including new restrictions on solar generating projects located on the top classes of farmland.
“We very pleased the government found a balanced approach on this issue,” McCabe said.
Thursday, the province said no new ground-mounted solar projects above 100 kilowatts will be allowed on class one, two or specialty crop areas. Some projects, up to 500 megawatts, will be allowed on class three lands.
“The regulations that have come out from the province, I think, are a very accurate reflection of where the OFA wants to be on this particular issue,” McCabe said.
He added the federation appreciates the fact the projects won’t be located on “prime agricultural land.”
He noted Ontario’s farmers only have access to 13 per cent of the private land in the province. They don’t want to lose any more prime agriculture land to solar projects.
The rooftops of houses, commercial buildings, schools and hospitals are a much better place to put them, McCabe said.
He’s been told there is the equivalent of 19,000 acres of commercial roof top in the Greater Toronto Area alone.
“As a farmer I already have solar collectors,” McCabe said. “They’re called plants.
“I feed people with them, I improve the soil with them, I do a lot with them. I do not need a solar panel, except on my roof.”
McCabe said he also welcomes the news that the province will expand its electrical transmission lines, opening up areas of the province where less valuable farmland can be opened up for future solar projects.
Putting solar panels on prime farmland creates one-time construction jobs but it prevents the growing of crops that that can go on creating jobs, year after year, according to McCabe.
A corn crop, by comparison, will feed people and livestock, at the same time its cobs can be use as a biofuel to create energy, he said.
McCabe also argued that the waste from farm animals — fed on the corn and living in a barn that can have a solar panel on its roof — can also be used to generate energy.
“In the middle of that corn field I can also put a wind turbine that would not be as large a footprint as covering the whole thing in useless solar panels that are driving me nuts.”
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