By Mac Christie, Times-Advocate Staff
VARNA – Bluewater council heard a report from another solar company hoping to set up an energy project in the area at its Oct. 15 regular council meeting.
The group, Skypower Global, is planning to set up a solar farm called the RubyLight solar park at a property on Babylon Line outside Zurich on a 20-year lease.
The company appeared before council to garner municipal support for the project as part of the Feed-In-Tarrif (FIT) 2.0 program, which awards points to projects.
Charmaine Thompson of Skypower told council the company has had 16 projects approved through the FIT program.
While she noted the aerial pictures of solar farms can be scary because they take up large swathes of land, from ground level the panels are unobtrusive.
“When you’re driving by or stopping you’re really not seeing the actual project,” she said. “We want to mitigate any visual impacts.”
Thompson also noted the projects are only allowed on certain soil qualities.
While Deputy Mayor Paul Klopp noted he thinks solar power is the way to go, he said he thinks it should be on buildings.
“That land produces excellent crops,” he said of the property in question, noting he has farmed it in the past. “That really is land that is (for) farming.”
Stanley West Coun. George Irvin asked if solar projects include setbacks from homes.
Thompson said while there isn’t a mandatory setback, she noted they must respect a 40-decibel noise level and there will be restrictions on residences nearby the property.
Zurich Coun. Janisse Zimmerman asked about decommissioning plans for solar farms.
Thompson said the decommissioning process takes out all of the equipment and live wiring on the property, noting the companies plan to have a recycling program in place by that point.
Thompson noted Skypower has proposed a community contribution program for solar projects.
“For every megawatt that is installed we would contribute back $7,000 per year, per megawatt,” she said. “So if we would be able to fit 10 megawatts on this parcel that would be $70,000 that comes back to the community.”
Mayor Bill Dowson said if money is generated for people in the area, the municipality may be passing it up.
“They will be somewhere,” he said of the solar farms. “If it’s something to improve the income for people in Bluewater and make a better life for someone we have to take a pretty serious look at it.”
Irvin made a motion to note and file the report, which passed 8-1 with Dowson opposed.