Council team says no to battery energy

MORRISBURG – Neither of the two Battery Energy Storage projects proposed for South Dundas got the resolution of support they were asking for from South Dundas council.

At the December 11 council meeting Stephanie Morin, municipal planning consultant for South Dundas recommended to South Dundas council that they not support the EDP South Branch storage proposal.

“Staff have evaluated and weighed the risks and benefits of supporting the proposal on the subject lands, and hereby do not recommend support of the project,” said Morin in her report to council. Ultimately this recommendation was based on the property being evaluated as best used for agricultural purposes.

“While these projects need to be located along the corridor of suitable transmission lines, there are alternative locations that would not impact some of South Dundas’s most productive farmland,” said Morin.

Council unanimously agreed with that recommendation. Without commenting, council simply voted on and agreed with the recommendation presented.

However, that was not the case with the Potentia Renewables Creekside Battery Energy storage proposal.

In the case of the Potentia project, staff recommended that council support the Creekside BESS project which would occupy less than five acres of the 300 acre parcel of land west of Brinston. “There is a remarkable difference between the two sites,” said Morin.

This parcel which is mostly farmland also includes 70 acres of dense forest which Morin suggested would act as a natural buffer for the project.

“Staff have evaluated and weighed the risks and benefits of supporting the proposal on the subject lands, and hereby recommend support of the project,” reads the report. “The proposal has been located outside of class 1-3 soils, away from sensitive land uses, will be visually screened by a noise wall, and dense forest (to the north and west), Additionally, while it does not avoid actively farmed lands, it does avoid a section of tile drained lands.”

When South Dundas mayor Jason Broad read the resolution with the recommendation of support for the Potentia proposal he asked for a mover and seconder, and was met with blank stares from his council team. He had to ask again before he was able to get a mover and seconder to enable them to vote on the motion.

“There is no way I would put this on my farm. I wouldn’t want my neighbour to put this on their land and I wouldn’t want my children to live anywhere near this,” said South Dundas councillor Tom Smyth. “I was almost swayed when I found out how much money they would pay,” said Smyth. “But money is not the right reason to support this.”

The three people in the audience at the meeting, literally applauded Smyth’s comments.

Senior staff had negotiated an annual community benefit fund of $150,000 per year while it’s operational.

“$150,000 plus the taxes would have been a benefit to the municipality,” said South Dundas deputy mayor Marc St. Pierre. “I want to hear from the rest of council.”

“Just because one is better than the other doesn’t mean that either is good for this municipality,” said South Dundas councillor Cole Veinotte. “To be the guinea pigs of technology new to this area I don’t think is something I have an appetite for. I cannot support this.”

“This community is not ready for this project at this time,” said South Dundas councillor Danielle Ward.

“There’s always a risk, no matter what,” said South Dundas mayor Jason Broad, who pointed out that council has spent a lot of time and a lot of money getting to this point on this issue.

He added that ships, trains, trucks on the highway, and gas running under the ground are all risks in this municipality every day. “This would be no different,” said Broad. “These batteries will be safe.” He pointed out that this resolution of support would allow Potentia to move their project forward and give South Dundas the chance to see a cash influx of about $5 million.

“Even if we say no, we are still going to have the risk,” said Broad, explaining that another proposal right on South Dundas’ border is going to be supported. “They will support it and they will bring millions into their community. We won’t have any of that money, but we will still have the risk.”

When he called for the vote, all of the three councillors and deputy mayor voted against the Potentia project making it unnecessary for Broad to vote.

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