More power to Epcor’s proposed solar farm: Cash from feds and province

Epcor’s proposed solar farm for southwest Edmonton got a $12.6-million boost Friday in federal and provincial funding.

The project will received $10.7 million from Natural Resources Canada and $1.9 million from Alberta Innovates to add a complete smart grid system — including a battery energy storage component and intelligent controls and monitoring — to the solar farm.

“A system that integrates renewables, increases energy storage and improves monitoring is the definition of smart. Better training for our workforce is critical for Canada’s clean economy and will enable new skills development for utility workers, building a stronger workforce,” said Amarjeet Sohi, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, in a Friday statement.

But the 23-hectare solar farm proposed for the Edmonton river valley, next to the Cameron Heights area water treatment facility, isn’t without controversy.

Epcor officials want to use land the company already owns to build the solar farm beside the E.L. Smith water treatment facility. Environmental organizations and many residents, however, say it makes more sense to put it on less valuable land.

Epcor president and CEO Stuart Lee, in a Friday statement, said the federal and provincial funding will help the company continue to cut emissions and energy consumption from non-renewable sources.

“This smart grid system is an example of environmental stewardship, economic benefit and innovation converging,” said Lee.

The solar farm project still requires approvals from the Alberta Utilities Commission and the City of Edmonton.

If approved, it will generate renewable energy to help power the water treatment plant, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Craig Bonneville, director of Epcor’s Edmonton water treatment plants, earlier this year said the solar farm should go in the river valley because it’s most efficient to produce electricity beside the facility that will use it. The 12-megawatt solar farm is to run the water treatment facility and produce 30 per cent extra to feed into the grid. Up to 45,000 solar panels would reduce the need to burn coal, he noted.

The original site plan for the proposed solar farm has been shifted slightly to ensure it stays 100 metres from the river to allow wildlife to pass.

The project is being be funded by a $1.9-million annual levy on Edmonton utility ratepayers.

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