By Cole Parkinson
Concerns around solar projects on viable agricultural land are still being discussed by the Municipal District of Taber council as they hope to spread that message further up the chain.
In particular, the M.D. is concerned about large solar being placed on productive ag lands, and administration has pointed out the fact any approval of those projects would go against recommendations of their Land Use Bylaw. There are currently three solar projects that are either operational, in construction, or in the development stage on irrigated lands within the municipality, despite this contradicting the Land Use Bylaw.
“There’s been lots of discussion on is this the best use of irrigation, agriculture land, or land that has potential to be irrigated to place solar on them? ” said Deputy Reeve Tamara Miyanaga during council’s April 28 meeting. “I would say we went around and around and discussed it, and then we said ‘let’s develop this notice so we are informing.’ As administration points out, it actually doesn’t align exactly with our policy. Do you think we need to do some work as a council to decide what direction we want to go? Does it need stronger wording or what does this council believe we should go with, with this policy?”
Administration’s position was to “pursue changes within municipal jurisdiction, and if unsuccessful, then move to an advocacy-based strategy. Administration endeavours to implement council’s preferred direction. This memo is more geared to clarify council’s preferred direction.”
“I know that, for the most part, everyone is in agreement that we shouldn’t be taking high-value land out of production to put solar on it,” added Reeve Merrill Harris. “On the other hand, the landowner, if that’s what (they) want to do with the land, who are we to say that it’s not something (they) should do, even though we personally might not agree with it. It does seem ironic to be looking for more irrigation and looking forward to more irrigation acres available and taking land that is irrigated out of production — it seems counter-productive.”
Others pointed out there’s plenty of suitable land for solar that is not great for ag purposes.
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