In the Light of Day

Written by Ian Cummings

There is something ominous in seeing 300 acres of solar panels, chocker block full of them, row upon row, surrounded by acres of East Hawkesbury sweeping farm-land. The prison fence surrounds it all, several smaller brown buildings scattered throughout, with the high berm along the roadway in one section helping to block the view.

The five adjoining dairy farms, plus others, still with their roadside signs in both official languages, protest the use of prime farm land for this purpose. One knows the stories of bitterness: families that have split, the owner of one of these properties eventually leaving the family home and moving into town to avoid seeing the protest sign as he turns out of the driveway.

No longer having to look across the flat onto Maple Row Road where, up on the hill of a neighbour's farm, the OFA sponsored a massive protest several years ago about whom he sold to and what this company was going to do. OFA and local dairy farmers led the protest. In the near past, they were trusting and openly catering to all things McGuinty, with letters to the editor to prove it. Fair enough, but they did not bother to read the new Provincial Policy Statement on land use, and ignored or scoffed at Landowners' concerns about it, when released.

Folks quickly found out, when someone bothered to read, that prime farmland was all that qualified for these types of projects. The Species at Risk Act, plus Model Forest legislation had made two other close-by properties illegal to build on. But not prime farmland.

So this crowd howled long enough to get that icon of Liberals, George Smitherman, to include prime farmland in the not-to-build-on category as well. But not in time to stop this project.

Hence the stage is now reached, where we have installations by two international solar companies, one having sold to the other, with rumours of yet another sale to another. All, of course, is government subsidized at all stages thus far and to come. The amount is not known to taxpayers.

But what is known is that the substation across the road isn't big enough to handle the 30 megawatts of power from this monster solar installation. So a $3 million hydro line to the town of Hawkesbury is to be constructed this summer. Hawkesbury doesn't need the power, Hydro folks angrily say. Only separated from Quebec by the Ottawa River, the cheapest power in the continent coming across that river has powered that town, as long as there's been electricity. It is to be replaced by the highest priced power in the continent.

Hydro folks, knowledgeable about electricity and how it flows when needed, point to the steel plant at nearby L'Orignal and the huge amount of power used by its arc furnace. They doubt whether this solar facility could keep up. So now the fight for flummoxed Liberals in the area, is to stop construction of the $3 million hydro line. It's cheaper for taxpayers all around to just leave the power sitting there in the panels, expensive as it may be to buy it at the highest rates in the continent to stay dormant.

Instead they use the best of all arguments to persuade government: the holy environment. Trees would have to be cut to install this hydro line, including the oh-so-scenic strip along the back of the mayor's farm. People driving by on the highway would see that.

Plus Hydro workers would "dog it," when installing this line, pushing up its cost. Imagine. Why on earth would they think that?

Somewhere between Maple Row and the adjoining road, a one-room school must have been built, as they were across the province by our ancestors. So their children could read.

Did they ever dream their children's children's children could read, but wouldn't care enough to do it?

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