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Solar projects continue making pitch in Vauxhall area

Posted on September 7, 2017 by Vauxhall Advance

By: Cole Parkinson

Vauxhall Advance

Solar Krafte Utilities was back in council in hopes to bring solar power to the M.D. of Taber.

The Vancouver-based company was making another presentation to the M.D. board in hopes to get their three proposed solar facilities located north of Enchant, south of Vauxhall and north of Vauxhall approved for building and operation.

With both company heads from around the area, Solar Krafte feels like they have a strong connection and understanding of the land.

“Being Canadian, we kept our eyes on our own backyard and Jeff (Thachuk, CEO) was born in Olds so we were very familiar with this area and knew that it represents the highest solar resource in Canada so it would be the first place where the same dynamic could occur in solar generation when done with scale,” said Mark Burgert, president of Solar Krafte. “It would be able to compete on its own two feet without pricing subsidies.”

The three M.D. projects are a part of a larger operation called Prairie Sunlight and development began years ago, according to Burgert.

The hope is to bring as much to the table as possible and give the region a better, cheaper source of power.

“For these projects as in every case, we looked very carefully starting about three years ago at the values that are currently part of the fabric of the landscape and community, we try in every case to build in as much value as we can into the land that we occupy so solar electricity generation is unto itself a very valuable use for land where we capture the sunshine and transform approximately 18 per cent of that directly into electricity,” said Burgert.

While coal and natural gas remain the top sources of energy, Solar Krafte is beginning to see a bump in interest for solar power.

The presenters wanted to highlight the fact that solar generation hadn’t been used correctly in the past based on the subsidies placed upon solar energy resulting in small scale systems when in fact for them to be of use to the population they need large scale operations just like coal and natural gas.

“Solar generation in the last couple years has become a very competitive form of electricity generation when it’s done properly, one of the key drivers is scale,” said Burgert.

“Historically up until very recently, solar generation was viewed as a boutique product where governments wanted to highlight some of the additional values renewable energy can bring.”

The total cost of the three M.D. projects is forecasted to reach just over $205 million dollars and predicted to generate enough electricity for north of 32,000 Alberta homes.

While the start up costs look to be high, the figureheads of Solar Krafte stress the need to stick with the program because eventually the solar plant will be worth every penny.

“Capital costs are really what drive the model for what we build, the sunshine doesn’t cost anything, so we don’t have to worry about the price of natural gas or coal or anything in the future,” said Burgert.

“Our model is really premised on bringing low cost capital and building the systems as efficiently as possible in the front because that locks in the price of power going forward. Once the system is paid off after about 23 years, then there is no form of electricity generation that we can conceive of that would be able to out compete an amortized solar power plant.”

Once questioning was opened up to the board and those in attendance, questions came about where the electricity would be going to.

“Our financial model is based entirely on the forward pricing curve of the pool price so we’ll  be selling our power into the pool, the bulk of it will end up being placed through private power purchase agreements with individual large load customers,” said Burgert. “We simply have to meet the market and or beat the market going forward so when you have new generation like this coming online, it can only introduce downward pricing pressure.”

“In Alberta in general, we have a glut of power right now because over half of the generation is still in the form of coal. For the last seven years the writing has been on the wall that that is coming to an end, it was first federally imposed that coal come offline and provincially a couple years ago. That natural gravitation away from coal is something that will significantly reduce the amount of generation and that’s where we will see prices come back to their historical norms.”

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