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Dennis German has a passion for catching rays. So much so that he’s determined to put solar farms in Southwold, Central Elgin and Southwest Middlesex.
The former CN railway corridor will be the site of the projects after it was discontinued a couple of decades ago.
“It’s basically sitting neglected, not really any use for over two decades,” German said. “It’s not considered farmland or commercial land or institutional land or conservation land. So, it’s ideal for a solar project.”
London-based German Solar Corporation has 22 projects on the go for 2018. There will be 11 in Southwold, 10 in Southwest Middlesex and one in Central Elgin. Right now the company is in the approvals process with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.
“That involves environmental studies, natural heritage assessments, looking at natural heritage features, cultural heritage, archaeology, looking at water bodies, preparing construction and operations plan reports, decommissioning reports,” German said.
Each project is 500 kilowatts and will occupy less than three acres of land. Each parcel is roughly from half a kilometre to two kilometres in length.
“We’ll occupy perhaps 25 per cent of that land area with our solar farm. The rest of that land will remain as is,” German said.
The solar project doesn’t use permanent structures, and there will be between 1,500 and 2,000 solar modules for each farm.
“We’re essentially putting in ground screws in the ground, attaching racking panels, wiring and connecting to the grid to feed in. Very efficient,” German said.
German’s background is in environmental geosciences, and his professional career was looking at environment issues; how to protect the environment from developments and how developments can proceed with minimal environmental impact.
“As my professional life progressed and evolved I looked at ways to improve upon limiting impacts to the environment,” German said. “Renewable energy was the logical step in this evolution of my profession.”
German is a proponent of solar energy.
“Solar has zero emissions, no fuels, no noise and they’re not permanent structures,” German said.
The reason the projects are located on former CN railway corridors is because it’s not prime industrial land, agricultural land, commercial land or residential land.
“One of the most appropriate land types is secondary industrial land or land such as we have along the CN rail,” German said.
The owner of the projects is MNO Solar FIT 4 LP. The other partner in this company is BrightRoof Solar LP, an Ontario-based provider of equity to solar projects. They have a 20-year contract with the provincial government for the solar farms. At the end of that contract the project is either decommissioned or the contract is renewed.
“The reality is solar panels will generate power a much longer time than the 20-year contract,” German said.
German said the price of solar energy has come down in Ontario significantly over the last 15 to 20 years.
“We’re now able to generate electricity with reasonable size solar farms, cost competitive with the grid,” German said.
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