By Cole Parkinson
The Municipal District of Taber is hoping to gain some extra funds through a grant that will help build a community-owned solar generation facility.
With the M.D. of Taber already approached by RenuWell Energy to place small-scale solar projects on abandoned oil well sites, this project could potentially benefit from a successful application as the grant for the Municipal Community Generation Challenge will provide up to $10 million in funding.
“This is a follow-up grant opportunity from our initial Municipal Climate Change Action Centre grant. Keith Hirsche (RenuWell) was at the solar conference in Calgary, it’s one of the largest ones in Canada. He was approached by both Alberta Innovates and the MCCAC, and was strongly encouraged that the M.D. of Taber pursue this other opportunity to take the next step in this small solar on abandoned oil and gas sites,” explained Brian Peers, director of municipal lands and leases, at the M.D. of Taber regular meeting on May 14. “The terms of the grant is a $10 million program for one or several different projects and it is a three or four step process, if it gets to that point. The first step was just to put in our interest. I did get a letter back today from Alberta Innovates.”
As the M.D. of Taber has reserved approximately $2.2 million for uncollectible tax revenue due to bankrupt oil and gas companies, RenuWell Energy is hoping to turn the liabilities into assets for municipalities in the form of small-scale solar.
The $10 million from the Municipal Community Generation Challenge would be able to cover 90 per cent of the cost of building a community solar generation facility, though the project must demonstrate benefits to the local community in job creation, local economic development, community resilience, economic diversification and climate leadership.
With the RenuWell project aiming to do just that, administration was recommending to proceed with the application process. The only potential problem that may arise from administration’s side of things is if the application becomes more time consuming, though they can stop at any time.
“My question to Keith was how he sees the M.D. involved in this, how much time commitment is there because we are pretty much tapped out as we have a bunch of other things before that before this fall. He talked about that with these folks and what they do is put a team together to develop the next step in the application,” said Peers. “If we were to get this I don’t see there being any out of pocket money from the M.D. to move forward. That being said, if we are in stage three and we decide it is something we don’t want to do, it sounds like we can pull out at any time.”
Seventy per cent of the funding comes from MCCAC and another 30 per cent is from Alberta Innovates, and while the total is $10 million, it isn’t expected to be the amount received, if successful.
“My guess is we probably won’t receive $10 million, that is the total grant allotment. There is a chance it is given to one municipality but unlikely,” said Peers.
An inquiry from council was if there would be a possibility of partnering with the Town of Taber moving forward with the application.
“I think it doesn’t hurt to inquire,” said Deputy Reeve Tamara Miyanaga.
“Maybe Brian can make a few inquiries and have some conversations with the town,” said CAO Derrick Krizsan.
A motion was made to proceed with the application process and was carried unanimously.