By Nikki Jamieson
A bigger solar project may be coming to Vauxhall — provided they find some more land.
During their regular June 19 meeting, Vauxhall town council discussed a potential solar development on town-owned land.
According to Coun. Richard Phillips, he and town CAO Cris Burns attended a recent meeting with the energy company Gengrowth, who wish to build a solar energy facility on a quarter section of land by the town’s sewage lagoons. However, there appears to be a problem with the size of the project.
“The size of the project they’re hoping to build would require more land than just the town owns,” said Phillips.
“So they would need to get some land from an adjacent landowner in order to make the project viable. The adjacent landowner in this case would most likely be BRID (Bow River Irrigation District), because that’s the largest private land owner that has, it’s really the only private landowner that has land adjacent to this, because otherwise it’s Crown land or tax recovery land.”
The town has approximately 70 acres that the town can develop there, as the land has things such as canal right-of-ways and future lagoon expansion earmarked there. Should the town sign an option agreement with the company at this point, Gengrowth is offering to start option payments immediately. However, in order for them to make it a viable project, they would need to likely get ahold of some BRID land.
Back in March, another company, Moose Power, had expressed interest in the land, although no agreement or contract was signed. That company was more interested in obtaining smaller pieces of land, while Gengrowth is looking to obtain enough land for a roughly 20-megawatt project, which would require 140 acres of land. In order for that project to happen, that means that they would need to obtain another 70 acres. The Advance was not provided with any pertaining documents during the meeting, although the town did send over a map of the potential project area when requested.
“Certainly from the town’s prospective, it’s far better revenue then what we’re making with the grazing right now, and it does leave land for sufficient lagoon expansion, based on the engineer recommendation.”
Should the town sign an option agreement with them, it would still take about five years before the potential project is built, should they be awarded a government contract. Additionally, during the option agreement, the town could still permit grazing on the land right up until construction starts, according to Phillips.
When asked what he would recommended changing about the agreement, Phillips admitted he was looking at it more from the BRID perspective than the town’s perspective, as he is employed there. However, he did mention that they talk about weed and pest control and “firm up” project abandonment and reclamation.
Council passed a motion to sign the option-to-lease agreement with Gengrowth, subject to the agreement being modified as required.