Solar Celebration

PARIS - Earth Day festivities, two green energy projects and partnerships between industry, Brant County, Six Nations and a local co-operative were the perfect mix for a double celebration Wednesday.

First, a busload of Brant and Six Nations councillors, senior staff from two governments, and the Six Nations Skydancers converged on BGI Retail in the Brant 403 Business Park for a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the launch of a rooftop solar project.

Later, most took the bus to the Brant Sports Complex to celebrate the start of a solar project with the county as a 70% stakeholder and the Sustainability Brant Community Energy Co-operative Inc. as a 30% partner.

At BGI, Brant Mayor Ron Eddy enthused over the unveiling of a 250-kilowatt system that will generate more than 350,000-kilowatt hours of electricity a year.

It's a partnership between the county, which owns 30%, BGI with a majority 55% stake, and Six Nations with a 15% share. Brant Renewable Energy, a division of Brant Municipal Enterprises, managed the project's construction.

"It's the first project of its kind, a unique partnership that generates revenues for all parties," Eddy told the gathering.

"It helps to make the area more energy independent and less reliant on fossil fuel-based electricity. It helps the county keep taxes down by creating new revenues."

Six Nations councillors Wray Maracle, Lewis Staats and Dave Hill emphasized the ability of the county and Six Nations to join forces on a project that will reap dividends for decades.

"Hopefully, as the electrons start flowing soon, the money will flow, too," Maracle told the gathering.

Also among the gathering were county councillors Don Cardy, Shirley Simons and John Wheat.

Kris Carson of BGI said he is proud that the company was able to work with partners to get the project off the ground.

Tom Kaszas, director the innovations branch at the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, said he considered the start of the two projects appropriate to the celebration of Earth Day.

"Projects like these are also the key to making progress on climate change," he said.

"Climate change is the defining issue of our times. Whether you believe that the climate is changing as a result of human activity, or whether you believe it is a natural phenomenon, the fact remains that we are living in a carbon constrained world."

But it is a world of opportunity for Ontario, he added.

"With our highly skilled, educated workforce, our central location in the North American economy, we are uniquely positioned to take advantage of the technology shift that these two projects exemplify."

Then the Skydancers entertained.

Frank Farkas, president of SBC Energy Co-op, said the solar project at the Brant Sports Complex and another one soon to begin on the roof of the South Dumfries Community Centre in St. George have given citizens an opportunity to invest in the green economy.

"They are going to prove their great worth in the future," he said.

"IOur partnership with the county has become a model for other communities to follow.

The co-op has 86 members, including some young people.

To demonstrate that, Farkas introduced eight-year-old Grace Carson and her twin sister, Sophie.

"I have invested in this co-op because I believe in green energy," said Sophie.

"We want to help build a sustainable community for children like us to grow up in," said Grace.