Council supports battery storage facilities in principle; will write resolutions of support

CENTRE WELLINGTON – Council did not approve two proposals to locate battery storage facilities in the township at its Nov. 27 meeting, but it did express a willingness to entertain the idea.

Aypa Power had already delegated to council in October, explaining its desire to establish a battery storage facility on property at Guelph Street and 2nd Line in Fergus and Ondrej Benjik returned Nov. 27 to present visual renderings of what the facility would look like.

Meanwhile, Alectra Energy Solutions wants to establish a similar facility at 8545 Wellington Road, 18 near Belwood.

Both companies were seeking a letter of support from council, which would increase the odds of being approved by the Independent Electricity System Operator to proceed with the projects.

The companies selected their properties based on proximity to Hydro One transmission towers and the landowners have agreed to lease the land for 21 years, after which the property will be restored and returned to agricultural use.

Council didn’t like the idea of losing agricultural land, even for 21 years, and a staff report indicates township staff thinks there is too little information about this new technology and the planning approvals necessary to allow them to be constructed.

Economic development coordinator Sally Litchfield said both properties are zoned agricultural and would require an official plan amendment from the county and a zoning amendment from the township if council was to approve the proposals.

Managing director of planning and development Brett Salmon told council that because the facilities are so new, municipalities don’t know how to handle them, and the province has not yet offered direction.

“A new Provincial Policy Statement is coming,” Salmon said. “Our message, staff’s message, is there is quite a bit of uncertainty around these facilities.”

Councillor Barb Lustgarten-Evoy said she is opposed to allowing anything but agricultural uses on prime ag land and councillor Jennifer Adams noted the Aypa proposal would be located right beside the Fergus South Secondary Plan lands.

“It will butt against these lands that will be our most dense community,” Adams said. “That is on my mind.”

Mayor Shawn Watters said he didn’t want to lose agricultural land either.

But despite that, and staff’s recommendation against an endorsement, council voted in favour of a resolution of support.

“Energy is also a priority and in this case we are not approving anything,” said councillor Bronwynne Wilton.

“This is very early steps in the process.”