Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Bala Falls Energy Project: Model for Sustainability?
As a partial resident of Bala, Ontario and admittedly biased, I’ve become familiar with the highly contested Bala Falls Hydro project by Swift River Company that would generate 4.3 MW of power for the province yet would come at a fairly substantial social and economic cost to the town of Bala. The Star and the Globe and Mail have written stories on it.
On the one hand, this project is perceived by many to be a “Green Project” using renewable sources of energy as it would wean Ontario off the need for fossil fuels and nuclear energy (Quebec and BC are highly dependent on hydro for a majority of their power). On the other hand, the impact on the local community of Bala could be devastating. The project is expected to take 2 years to build which would sever the convenient thoroughfare cottagers use to get to and from their cottage. Moreover, the landmark Bala Falls that attract visitors would be all but destroyed not to mention the fact that environmentalists would argue that hydro should not be labeled green because of its disruptive effect on ecosystems. For instance, see the following:
Hydropower doesn't count as clean energy
Hydroelectric power's dirty secret revealed
With already 2 power stations, has Bala contributed enough? Oddly enough, Ontario has so much spare capacity on its grid that it sells a good chunk of its power to the US.
Any thoughts on this? Is hydro considered a green source of energy in your mind? Do we label projects as “green” based on their relative improvement (from coal for example) or more absolute contribution(i.e. whether they support the integrity of ecosystems)? Is this merely a “not in my backyard” scenario or something more? When those favoring the project call this “sustainable”, are they forgetting the social and economic pillars that would be impacted? Should we be concerned that we might be neglecting the demand side of energy, always obsessed with supply? Or is this simply a symbol of a social and economic inevitability for small communities?