By Nikki Jamieson
The Municipal District of Taber has issued a development permit for the Hays Solar Project.
However, it’s got a few strings attached.
During the Feb. 6 meeting of the M.D. of Taber’s Subdivision and Development Authority, committee members discussed key concerns about the project, and how to best addressed them.
The Hays Solar Project is one of three solar projects in the M.D. being proposed by BowMont Capital & Advisory Ltd. and Canadian Solar Solutions Inc., on behalf of C&B Alberta Solar Development ULC (CBA). The proposed solar plant is located on approximately 174 acres of land, centered at the quarter section SW 18-13-13 W4M, three kilometres southeast of Hays. It will feature 92,000 solar modules, 11 inverter and transformer stations and produce 43 gigawatt hours a year, or enough energy to power 6,000 households.
In the meeting, committee members looked over a draft version of the development permit for the site, and discussed what conditions to add to it. Although each permit will be considered individually, as the HSP is the first solar project whose permit is being considered in the M.D., it will also serve as a sort of guideline for the others.
“What I look at it is we can’t put anything in here we can’t enforce,” said Jack Dunsmore, director of planning and infrastructure for the M.D. “If we approve it, then we’re the people that uphold it.”
Bonnie Brunner, senior planner for the Oldman River Regional services Commission, said that while the she felt the conditions listed were “fairly complete”, she did think that there could be further discussion on a few items. One topic she brought up was if the M.D. wanted to have copies of any geotechnical reports or grading and drainage plans.
“This is not for review or approval by the M.D.,” said Brunner. “This is just so we have this on record, so we know what is their final report.”
Brunner also suggested that, in additional to a crop cover, that the applicants submit a soil control erosion plan to the M.D., submitted prior to construction. Although some committee members thought having a wind fence would be good, committee member and M.D. councillor Dwight Tolton believed the area was too big for it.
“On 80 acres, you’ll have to have quite a fence,” said Tolton.
“I’m going to tell you, the only thing that works there is the one (condition) there that insists crop covers will be planted and established before construction.”
Once construction starts, “that place is going to be a dust bowl”, due to the expected 2,000 truckloads travelling around the area throughout the year. The committee said they would like to see at least six inches of cover crop grown before construction, made up of native grasses to the area, as long as it’s not a noxious weed, in order to help keep the dust down. However, it is not a condition, but rather something they would prefer to see. If they seed it now, it will be ready once construction starts next year, if BowMont and CSS are given a green light and contract for the plant.
“You try to stop 80 acres, when you got trucks coming in there, it’s April, the wind blows every day. This thing could be a monster.”
Although they can’t spray the area, as nothing would then grow, and they would need too much water to keep the dust down, two conditions of the permit were that a crop cover be established before any contraction starts and that the applicants perform dust control.
Another condition was that they submit an emergency management response plan. Committee member and M.D. councillor Bob Wallace said that it should be noted that they need a EMR plan during the construction period as well, due to workers on the site.
“There’s going to be 270 employees on the one location,” said Wallace. “So there’s two plans; one during construction and one during operations. Because one will be needing first aid on site.”
In the final copy of the permit, the committee has 17 conditions listed, ranging from submitting stormwater plans, reclamation plans, weed management and the applicant obtaining development permits from Alberta Transportation and a building permit. They will also be submitting a letter to the Alberta Utilities commission, which will contain their development permit conditions, letters they had received at the hearing last month from concerned residents and minutes from the development hearing for the project. Although they did express distaste over written submissions to the AUC concerning the project being due that same day as the AUC considers issuing BowMont and CSS a power plant permit, Dunsmore pointed out that by getting everything in order so quickly, they did have a voice in it.
“This is new to a whole bunch of people in this province,” said Dunsmore. “And I think that the quicker we get on the ground for it, the quicker our voice will be heard.
The committee passed a motion to approved the development permit for the HSP, as well as send a letter to the AUC, containing information about their permit conditions, resident letter of concerns and hearing minutes.
BowMont and CSS have previously stated that the Hays project, if awarded a contract under the Alberta Infrastructure Request for Proposals, would begin construction in the second quarter of this year, with a planned in service date in the first quarter of 2018.