Algonquin Highlands quashes hydro projects
By Chad Ingram
Algonquin Highlands council declined support resolutions for proposed hydro and solar feed-in-tariff (FIT) projects in the township during a Sept. 3 meeting.
Patrick Gillette of CRD Energy Consultants visited councillors Thursday, looking for support for small-FIT hydro and and solar installations that included proposed hydro generation infrastructure for Buttermilk Falls near Halls Lake, the Hawk Lake log chute and the Buck Slides dam and falls near Lake Kushog.
Those generation facilities would be up to 500 kW, or in Gillette’s words, about the size of council chambers.
The projects required municipal support, as they would have required municipally owned property.
“We’re here today to talk about strategic opportunities,” Gillette told councillors. “It’s not complicated or time-consuming, however, we’re working with tight timelines.”
As Gillette explained, his company was working toward an Oct. 23 deadline for its application to the province.
According to Gillette, the “ local and regional benefits” of each solar or hydro project could be anywhere between $20,000 and $200,000 per annum, and there was also opportunity for the municipality to partner with the company, taking a portion of revenues.
Gillette was also looking for a township staff member to advise the company on preferred sites.
“I’m not understanding the ‘local and regional’ benefit,” said Reeve Carol Moffatt, noting the company itself would obviously sell electricity back into the grid. “Who benefits, then?”
Gillette said preference would be given to local contractors and that there would be short-term construction revenues.
In addition, he said someone would be required to maintain the facilities, creating at least part-time work, and that there would also be tax generation.
He said if a solar project was to be located on municipal land, a lease would be paid directly to the township.
“That’s a pretty broad brush you’re asking for,” said Councillor Brian Lynch, explaining he was uncomfortable council was being asked for blanket approval, without any sort of public input.
“We do have a purchasing policy,” Moffatt said, explaining that if council decided it was going to proceed with a solar installation at a municipal property, it would put the project out to tender, and would not be making handshake agreements with companies on a first-come, first-come, first-served basis. “We can’t say, yes, we want to work with you today.”
Moffatt said if council decided to move ahead with any solar projects, Gillette’s company was welcome to submit a bid.
The reeve was adamantly opposed to all the suggested hydro projects.
“Council has previously said no to a hydro installation at Buttermilk, so I don’t think we’d be saying yes,” Moffatt said. “I’ll just weigh in off the bat, I think we all support green initiatives where they’re appropriate and useful. I believe our community values its waterways in terms of tourism value and cultural heritage far too much to alter them in this way and, I have to say, I can’t support any of the hydro locations you’ve identified, at all. You’re talking about Buttermilk Falls, Buck Slides . . . and I would say, which painting of Buck Slides do you like better? The one by Joachim Gauthier or the one by A.J. Casson? Like, there are huge histories attached . . . logging history, tourist attractions.”
Council echoed Moffatt’s opposition.
“All of these sites have cultural importance to us,” said Deputy-reeve Liz Danielsen. “I can’t support alteration of any of these site.”
Councillors Marlene Kyle and Lisa Barry said the talk about benefits to the community was too tenuous.
“We have a heavily manipulated water flow system and that’s one more manipulation,” Barry said.
Gillette also mentioned the idea of a hydro setup at the dam at Kawagama Lake. Moffatt told him council wouldn’t be discussing it since he hadn’t included it as a subject in his delegation request and that she was sure members of the lake association would be interested to be in the room if such a proposal was to be discussed.
Council will be applying for funding from the Ontario Small Communities Fund for possible solar projects. Prospective locations include the Dorset rec centre, the Dorset public works garage, hangars at the Stanhope Airport and the municipal office on North Shore Road.