Monday, July 13, 2009

First food for fuel, now food for power

While it's now commonplace to hear of crops being used to produce ethanol and other biofuels, using farmland to create power is more of a novelty. However, it too is coming--and with government help--to the ire even of an environmentalist, anti-nuclear group.

A 200-acre farm just west of Ottawa, will get 300,000 solar panels at the cost of $100-million. Once it becomes operational, it will become Canada's largest photovoltaic plant and generate 20MW of electricity, enough for 7,000 homes. The venture is being done by EDF EN Canada, the Canadian arm of the French renewable-energy firm, EDF-Energies Nouvelles. Canwest explains,

The industry is getting a lot of government help. EDF is undertaking its photovoltaic project under the Ontario government's renewable-energy program, which the Liberals plan to fund to the tune of $5 billion over the next three years.

The plan has run into some trouble, however, with some farmers and residents east of Ottawa opposed to the use of fertile agricultural land for solar and wind power plants.

Critics say the bigger problem is that the government's well-intentioned plan to develop green energy has turned into a big scam, in which taxpayers are merely subsidizing private companies to produce inconsequential amounts of power.

Norman Rubin, a senior policy analyst at Energy Probe, says while solar energy will, in time, "revolutionize electricity as we know it," the government's current approach amounts to throwing good money after bad.

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