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Only partial approval for major solar play near Hays

Posted on July 1, 2024 by Vauxhall Advance

By Collin Gallant
Southern Alberta Newspapers

Alberta utility regulators have approved smaller portions of a proposed solar power facility near Hays, Alta., that was held up by an approvals pause last fall, but has denied the largest portion of the project containing key infrastructure.

Texas-based Proteus Power put forth three related applications to build the “Alberta Solar” projects on land near the hamlet of Hays in the Municipal District of Taber that would be leased from the Bow River Irrigation District.

On June 19 the Alberta Utilities Commission approved portions 1 and 3, comprising arrays 

totalling 45 megawatts capacity, but denied the larger 164-megawatt portion, which would include a substation and battery storage, stating it would disrupt too much native grassland at the site.

“The Commission also considers whether the projects are in the public interest regarding their 

social, economic, environmental and other effects,” the decision reads in part. “The Commission (evaluation of) the environmental impacts of the projects and finds that approval of PAS2, including its associated battery energy storage system and the South Hays 1088S substation, is the public interest.”

The project is the second located in the southeast this year that has been denied permit approval due to concerns over native grassland habitat. The Rainier Solar Farm, comprising 

3,000 acres southwest of Brooks, was denied in March.

Proteus company officials contacted June 19 by Southern Alberta Newspapers said they were determining the impact of the decision on the entire project.

Cumulatively, the phases are proposed to be built on about 980 acres of land that BRID officials say is of low-quality grazing land. The lease would maximize income and allow practical irrigation to be transferred to more productive acres.

The AUC ruled the cultivated and tame hay portions were of little agricultural value, but the large section contained about one-quarter native grass, about 150 acres, and construction would be too disruptive to wildlife.

Proteus had argued in its application that it planned to limit stripping and return hayland on smaller parcels to native vegetation.

Proteus Power filed its application for approval on July 10, 2023, about one month before the provincial government ordered a pause on new renewable project approvals.

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