Farm Systems

Ontario Makes it Harder, Slower to Grow Solar While Hurting Farmers

OTTAWA – The Government of Ontario’s new restrictions on the development of clean, solar energy on three levels of agricultural land will prevent growth, investment and take income away from Ontario farmers according to the Canadian Solar Industry Association.

“The government’s decision to impose new obstacles to the development of solar represents a lost opportunity for the solar industry, Ontario’s economy, environment, and farmers,” said Elizabeth McDonald, CanSIA President. “The government seeks 50,000 new green economy jobs yet its actions today will cost thousands of jobs in the solar industry. While we’re committed to working to ensure that Ontario harnesses as much solar development as possible, the limitations imposed today will have a negative impact on the industry.”

The government has limited solar development to barely more than 500 megawatts on class 1, 2 & 3 lands. However, based on earlier government decisions, the solar industry is already working on plans for 2000 megawatts which was to be built on only 0.11% of class 1, 2 and 3 agricultural lands over the next 15 to 20 years. When the government introduced the Green Energy and Economy Act, there was no indication of such a ban. The industry congratulated the government for its stated initiative and continued negotiating land deals with farmers.

“Even with a continuously changing set of rules and regulations, we have worked in good faith over the past few years to develop an industry that will help Ontario’s economy and its environment,” said McDonald. “Allowing solar development on a fraction of agricultural land will also provide a stable, reliable cash-flow for many famers seeking to diversify from volatile crop prices.”

Solar farms are designed to be decommissioned after use, meaning they are safe for the environment and agricultural activities when the land is no longer used for solar.

“The government and the farm organizations like the OFA should rethink their objections to solar farms on agricultural land, which will provide a stable income source for farmers over many years to come,” said David Rystenbil, a farmer from Russell, Ontario. “Solar farms have already received permission to be built in Ontario. By allowing this, the government has set a precedent and it would be grossly unfair to deny this opportunity to other farmers.”

“I believe as a local farmer that I should be able to use solar panels much the same as I can to raise crops that are then made into energy such as corn for ethanol, or switch grass for pellets,” said Ray Roth, another Ontario farmer. “The difference is that solar panels are benign to the land and can actually help it by letting it regenerate while lying fallow.”

The Canadian Solar Industries Association’s mission is to develop a strong, efficient, ethical and professional Canadian solar industry, able to service an expanding domestic energy market, to provide innovative solar solutions to world energy problems, and to play a major role in promoting the transition to a solar energy future worldwide.

Elizabeth A. McDonald
Canadian Solar Industries Association/L’Association des Industries Solaries du Canada