GRAVENHURST - Exactly when the window of opportunity will open for companies to bid on larger alternate energy projects isn’t known, but Mariposa Solar Farms doesn’t want to wait to engage the local populace.
The Toronto-based developer is eyeing a plot of unused pasture land on Canning Road in Severn Bridge for an approximately $35-million, eight-megawatt project. Mark Bell, director for Lakeview Solar Farm Inc. and co-owner of Mariposa first brought light to the project in seeking council’s support back in November 2012. He said while there is no known timeline for when the Ontario Power Authority will open a window of opportunity to bid on larger energy projects, “We’re keeping just ahead of the game and hoping it (the opportunity to bid) will come this year.”
A short window of about one month opened in late December for small projects and in that round, the municipality submitted six separate applications, including four ground-mounted and two rooftop-mounted solar projects. The town is trying to garner some of the 200-plus megawatts of approvals and reports are that the OPA is whittling down about 800 megawatts in requests from that round.
The next round Bell is hoping will open shortly is for larger operations. He explained the last window for the larger operations came in 2010, so he and his team have been waiting patiently for the next intake.
Bell said with a new provincial leader in place in Kathleen Wynne, who has spoken about the need for alternative energy and greater public input on those projects, he’s moving ahead with his desire to engage the public in the process now by hosting a public meeting and open house next Thursday (March 21).
“We believe in the rules set out and public engagement is a crucial component of any application made,” he said.
The Canning Road project has already received approval in principle from TransCanada Engineers to site the farm on the same property one of their pipelines runs through and Mariposa has conducted preliminary environmental impact studies that have returned favourable, Bell said. He added the nature on the land would not be disturbed and a rear property woodlot would not be touched in development.
The details of the proposed project will be discussed at the public open house, March 21 at the Severn Bridge Women’s Institute and community hall at 1035 Southwood Road, from 3 to 7:30 p.m.