By Cole Parkinson
With solar power coming to the M.D. of Taber relatively soon, the staff at the M.D. are hopeful of the kinds of possibilities it will bring to the area.
All three of Solar Krafte’s proposed solar powered projects (solar facilities located north of Enchant, south of Vauxhall and north of Vauxhall) have been green lit by council while two of three Canadian Solar/Bow Mont (one in Hays and one in Vauxhall area) have been approved while a third in the Taber area has yet to be approved.
The process to get these types of projects up and running is fairly easy, but there are many steps to get from proposal to operation.
“It’s quite simple, we initially sit down with these groups and we go through our land use bylaw. We get staff involved, our planner involved and try to make sure when they come in with a development application it’s deemed complete. We don’t want them coming in with a half baked one and we have to send it back, so we try to work with them the best we can prior to them bringing it to us,” said Jack Dunsmore, director of planning and infrastructure.
“Once we deem it’s complete, we hold a development meeting, not a public meeting, but it’s called a development hearing which means it has to be advertised one week in your paper, and then Joanne (Bronsch) works with our I.T. department to get names of adjacent landowners within a mile. We send letters out to them to notify them of the development hearing and they can come in to speak yay or nay. It then goes to the subdivision development authority which is five elected members. We have a land-use bylaw that they follow for development. As far as staff goes we try to help the individuals, these organizations as best as we can to make sure what they are looking at is suitable. If it’s not suitable and they still want to go ahead with it, we tell them to bring it in and let the chips fall where they may.”
Both Solar Krafte and Canadian Solar/Bow Mont have outlined for construction to begin in late 2017 with operation starting sometime in late 2018.
Right now, the M.D.’s work is mostly done as they wait for the groups to start construction on the solar facilities.
“Our steps are waiting for them (Solar Krafte) to get their Alberta utility commission, our steps are pretty much done. Other than the part of them following the conditions of approval, they all have conditions of approval that they have to meet and we’ll have to keep an eye on and make sure they follow. Most of their regulations will come through Alberta Utilities Commission,” said Dunsmore.
“Alberta Utilities Commission has the most power with them as they are the highly-regulated body. How they work with them is out of our hands, they will send comments to us and ask for comment but typically what we tell them is our comment is right here in the development permit. So far that’s worked.”
In order to get these solar projects up and running, lots of work is required as well as many people doing the construction.
With the facilities being built in the M.D., administration expects jobs to be available for the locals.
“We expect that there will be some local jobs available for those projects simply based upon the number of people that they are requesting. That’s a lot of trades people to be pulling from across the province,” said Kirk Hughes, development and community safety officer.
Solar Krafte themselves have said with the scale of their plans, they produce many jobs.
“When it comes to jobs, it goes without saying that when you hang a lot of modules as we do, the labour involved in building one of these systems, just as the capital costs, is very extensive. With the systems that we build, we produce a lot of jobs during production,” said Mark Burgert, president of Solar Krafte, during their proposal at M.D. council on Sept. 5.
Once work does begin on building, the M.D. for the most part stays out of construction work.
They say they stay out of their way and any looking they do at the projects will mostly be for interest of the progress being made.
“We would drive by and take a peek of course and a lot of that would be for our interest because it’s new. I would take Joanne, she’s more of the office type and it’s nice for her to get out to see it. These are rate payers like any other resident, we would try to see if they needed anything. It’s economic development basically as well as meeting the land use bylaw,” said Dunsmore.
So far, five of the six proposed solar projects have been given the go ahead but the M.D. expects many more companies to come forward with plans.
“We expect solar power to be one of those industries in the next decade that will be pretty profitable with the M.D. and you can see that Solar Krafte has done a good job indicating that we are pretty red zone in regards to solar panels,” said Hughes.
Dunsmore says while they have more land available, the challenge may lie in how much grid space they have.
“There’s lots more land for more, it just depends how much more is left on the grid and where they can tie in. Some are tying in to the distributions and some are going straight into distribution and transmission so we don’t know exactly how much is left on the grid. There will be several of them applying to tie into the same substation and we only have limited capacity but it’s like a horse race, first horse that crosses wins.”