Ottawa will temporarily halt new solar, wind, and bioenergy projects as the city redefines zoning for large-scale renewable energy facilities in order to safeguard agricultural land.
“Staff called this an interim solution, but some environmentalists said they were taken aback by the temporary ban, which they believe was introduced with no compelling reason,” reports CBC News.
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The pause comes after Rideau-Jock (Ward 21) councillor David Brown tabled a motion in February to place zoning limits on big renewables projects so that development in the region proceeds responsibly. Located in Ottawa’s rural south end, Ward 21 is home to more than 30,000 people in rural and farming communities scattered across some 744 square kilometres.
Under current municipal rules, there are no limits on where such facilities can be built.
“We want to make sure that we protect our farmland,” Brown said. “It’s always better and certainly more attractive to have locally grown produce and foodstuffs instead of having to import it.”
City planner Mitchell LeSage told members of the agriculture and rural affairs committee that the pause was designed to ensure that renewables are built “in an orderly fashion.”
No current applications will be upset by the decision, writes CBC. Angela Keller-Herzog, executive director of Community Associations for Environmental Sustainability Ottawa (CAFES), told councillors she was relieved to hear no work would be held up by the move.
City staff said the moratorium will be lifted as soon as possible. Ottawa has hired a consultant to review zoning rules in other municipalities, and will consult with energy producers, environmental advocates, and residents before presenting council with a proposal this fall.
The staff report on new zoning contained a related provision to limit battery storage facilities on farmland to “two percent of the total lot size, up to a maximum of one hectare,” CBC reports. The move comes not long after Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator launched itself into the storage sector, amid much fanfare and mixed reviews.
It also arrives as Ottawa city staff agreed to support a small, 4.99-megawatt battery storage in the rural West Carleton-March Ward. Designed to fit on one-tenth of a hectare, the storage will be linked to a nearby solar facility.