Help kick start renewable energy projects in North Grenville

Categories: News
Published on: August 17, 2015

Sustainable North Grenville / John Brauneisen / 13 August 2015

The Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-op (OREC) is expanding to accept new members from across Eastern Ontario. This is good news. This expansion is in conjunction with the launch of OREC’s fourth shareholder offering, which seeks to raise $1.7 million to invest in six local solar rooftop projects, and add 758 kW of generation to OREC’s generating portfolio.

How does this directly impact North Grenville, one might ask? If 50 members of OREC come from a specific municipality, then OREC can undertake new projects here in North Grenville. A resident of North Grenville who is also a property owner and joins OREC then adds to the necessary count needed for OREC to entertain a specific project here in our Municipality. Membership costs a very reasonable $100 and this entitles the new member to also buy into the latest share offering. This means that an individual can support green energy initiatives and make up to 5% over a 20 year period. Personally, I became member number 404 in June of this year.

But let’s focus on getting a large solar energy project in North Grenville. On September 30, 2015, the Independent Electrical System Operator (IESO) will be opening applications for the Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) program. If OREC has 50 members from North Grenville then it can apply for a FIT IV project in our municipality. Presently there are about 5 OREC Members who live in North Grenville. There are several exciting possibilities for the installation of roof top solar. These include the Municipal Centre and Curling Club where approximately 500 kW of solar panels could be installed on municipal roof space. The Municipality could in turn receive approximately $20,000 annually for 20 years by leasing its roof space for the installation of solar panels. Our elected representatives do not support the installation of solar panels on Municipal buildings.

In January of this year, North Grenville was presented with a proposal to rent appropriate roof space for the installation of solar panels. This proposal was rejected by staff and Councilors and yet the Council is willing to enter into a partnership agreement with the Burritt’s Rapids Renewable Energy Association (BRREA) to build a small hydro electric development at the dam in the village. If fact, the Municipality is taking the lead to be be the FIT IV applicant and apply to Parks Canada for a site permit renewal allowing for this development to proceed after the completion of an Environmental Assessment in 2016. Parks Canada will take 9.75% of the revenue generated by this project. Just to make the FIT application and obtain a site permit, the estimated cost is $20,000. Municipal staff appear to be fully engaged with pursuing the Burritt’s Rapids green energy project in advance of a formal agreement between the Municipality and BRREA. In fact, I was told by the Chief Administrative Officer, three weeks ago, that North Grenville is still doing its due diligence before entering into a formal agreement with BRREA. The question arises who will pay the pay for the $20,000 in application fees for the Burritt’s Rapids project? One might remember that municipal taxes in North Grenville increased more than 6% in 2015 and will rise 2% annually for the next 10 years.

And yet when a proposal is made to lease roof top space on Municipal buildings for the installation of solar panels, it is rejected by staff and Council. In this particular case the cost to the Municipality was nothing, the project proponent would have paid for the FIT IV application and all associated project costs. In my mind this represents a double standard taken to supporting green energy projects. There will be presentation to the Committee of the Whole Council on August 24 to address the technical concerns raised by installing solar panels on municipal roof space. The proposal will ask Council to adopt a motion supporting the installation of solar panels on municipally owned roof space where installation is technically feasible.

How can residents of North Grenville and Sustainable North Grenville (SNG) help to have our municipality undertake a positive path forward to implementing green energy projects? First, contact the Mayor and Councilors to tell them that you support a balanced approach to green energy development in North Grenville by supporting the lease of roof space for the installation of solar panels. You will find the e-mail addresses for the Mayor and Councilors on the North Grenville website. Second, come out and show your support on August 17 at the meeting of the Committee of the Whole Council for roof top solar in North Grenville on municipal buildings. Finally, support green energy development in North Grenville by becoming members of OREC at the earliest opportunity.

Respectfully yours,

John Brauneisen
North Grenville Resident and Member of OREC