Brant may go into solar energy business

Brantford - PARIS - Brant County councillors are warming to a proposal to erect solar panels on the Gilbert well field to earn some revenue, but they want to hear more before making a commitment.

The corporate development committee has endorsed a staff recommendation to submit an application to the Ontario Power Authority under the micro-FIT program to meet an intake deadline, but is also calling for a staff report to evaluate the proposal.

Council will consider final approval on Tuesday.

The application would be made by Brant Renewable Energy, a division of the Brant County Power, and the county, which owns the Gilbert well field, just outside Paris.

Committee members expressed their interest after hearing a presentation on Monday from Peter Black of Brant Renewable Energy, in which he outlined how a group of solar panels could be erected on a field that is in a wellhead protection area that is not in production but could still earn some revenue.

Don Glassford, the county's director of community services, advised the committee that a full evaluation is still needed, but added "there is some urgency to move forward with the application."

He said the county could submit the application, study the project more and withdraw if it decides it's not worthwhile. The county could lose $35,000 in the application process if it does not proceed.

"We must get further information, but we must move quickly to get the application in the queue for the OPA's consideration," he said.

Coun. Joan Gatward, who chairs the committee, said in an interview she believes the proposal is worth looking at, but she wants to see a full cost-benefit report.

"The financial implications to the county are an important consideration for me, and I want to weigh the pros and cons before making a final decision, but it's worth looking at how we can get into green energy and earn revenue to save the taxpayers money."

It they go ahead, the parties would be participating in the micro-FIT (Feed In Tariff) program, which was set up under the Green Energy Act to encourage people and organizations to invest in wind and solar equipment to produce electricity to sell to the grid, overseen by the Ontario Power Authority.