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Stormy weather ahead for proposed M.D. solar projects

Posted on July 13, 2017 by Vauxhall Advance

By Nikki Jamieson
Vauxhall Advance
njamieson@tabertimes.com

One solar company’s foray into the M.D. has hit a bit of a snag.

In their regular June 27 meeting, the Municipal District of Taber council reviewed a request for support from the companies behind the Vauxhall and Hays Solar projects.

Last year, BowMont Capital Advisory Ltd. and Canadian Solar Solutions Inc. (CSS), who partnered together on behalf of C & B Alberta Solar Development ULC (CBA), had announced plans to jointly develop three solar projects in the M.D., near Hays, Vauxhall and Taber.

This year, the Hays and Vauxhall Solar Projects have received approval from the M.D.’s subdivision and development boards and the Alberta Utilities Commission.
The Taber Solar Project has not filed an application with the AUC, nor has it appeared or is scheduled to appear in front of the M.D.’s subdivision and development authority.

No construction has started yet to build these projects, as they are waiting for a government contract first.

However, in a newly released Alberta Infrastructure document on the Negotiated Request for Proposal (NRFP) for the Supply of Solar Power for Renewable Energy Certificates, among other eligibility requirements, it says that projects must be of 25-megawatts or greater in size.

As the Vauxhall and Hays Solar Projects are 17- and 22-megawatt projects respectively, that is a problem that could potentially put a cloud over their Alberta solar energy contract dreams.

BowMont and CSS have requested that the M.D. and the County of Newell – where they also have proposed projects — support their request that the AI NRFP considers the developer as the project and not each individual site.

That way, they can meet the requirement, as they are limited to substation size unless a substantial substation rebuild is undertaken, at which point the projects will become uneconomical to pursue.

“We understand C & B concerns regarding the Negotiated Request for Proposal process Alberta Infrastructure has placed out in the form of a tender to supply solar energy up to a 75-megawatt capacity,” said Derrick Krizsan, CAO for the M.D.
“Council wanted some additional information pertaining to the third potential application that C & B has with for the Taber location — which is directly north of Taber, right alongside some country-residential properties.

“The Taber (project), we haven’t heard anything about C & B plans to proceed forward with that project, so before we send a letter of support, we wanted clarification of (CBA’s) plans on the project, which council is opposed to.”

The Taber Solar Project is easily the most controversial of the three M.D. solar projects BowMont and CSS have proposed in the past year.

Although both Vauxhall and Hays had attracted concerns on things such as fire safety and volunteer canola, the Taber Solar Project would have been situated within one of the most heavily populated areas of the M.D., with 25 people living within a kilometre of the proposed site.

At a delegation during an October M.D. meeting last year, over 40 residents of that area hammered the BowMont and CSS representatives over the proposed spot.
Krizsan says that, being a rural municipality, there is plenty of less-populated land they could have used for the proposed project.

“The location, we don’t deem it to be suitable for that type of project.”

Since then, the M.D. has not heard anything about the status of the Taber Solar Project, and it hasn’t come before subdivision or sent an application in to the AUC.
Before the M.D. issues any letter of support, they want to find out what’s going on with it first.

“If we’re opposed to a project, we don’t want to send a letter off saying we’re in favour of them being awarded a contract for that project,” said Krizsan, adding the other two projects were much better sited.

“We need some additional clarity, that’s what it came down to.”

The M.D. is not unfamiliar with renewable energy. Currently, there are two wind farms operating in the M.D. — one located south of Cranford and one southeast of Taber — with energy company ENMAX looking at putting another one in the M.D. southeast of the Taber one.

There are currently four approved solar projects in the M.D. — two by CBA and another two by local farmers, agriculture producers and solar companies — which are smaller, on-farm projects. Other companies have also expressed interest in building a solar farm in the M.D., with one company — Solar Kraft, who has proposed a 75-, 24- and 22-megawatt sized projects — having been scheduled to appear before M.D. council on July 11.

“It seems to be gaining some momentum.”

Council had passed motions to accepted the item for information, and to request information about the status of the Taber Solar Project.

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