Fox Coulee solar park units reduced

Written by Terri Huxley

Aura Power Renewables Limited sent in a letter giving an update on the solar park located near Fox Coulee and the airport, close to the Drumheller Valley.

In the latter half of 2019, the company finished an investigation meant to optimize the performance of the array.

“In general our conclusions reveal that we are able to increase the performance by using panels that track the movement of the sun. 

Additionally, by using this configuration we can decrease the amount of glare experienced by ground observes,” noted the letter signed by the company’s development team.

This new method will allow them to decrease the amount of ground covered by solar panels, while still producing the same amount of electrical power from the array.

The site chosen is still expected to remain similar to past presentations.

To date, they have completed a number of inner projects to make the solar farm a success including single direction panels which replaced the tilt style panels previously installed as well as completion of wildlife monitoring and follow up studies as required by the Alberta Environments and Parks.

The number of inverter stations have been reduced to 17 as a result of higher performance units now becoming available.

They anticipate these units will give off the same or less of the noise emissions given under the previously proposed designs.

Aura Power expects to be ready to begin construction in late summer or in the fall of this year with the site becoming operational as early as November.

Lastly, the company is on the hunt for tradespeople in the local area including labourers, accommodations, construction equipment, trucking and more is required to make the project possible.

Morrin letters

Two letters were received by the Mayor of the Village of Morrin, Howard Helton.

Council remained quiet during the meeting, accepting the letters as information.

The letters addressed concerns regarding Starland County’s water operator Glen Riep who has a side business as an independent operator that monitors Morrin’s water treatment plant as well on his own time.

Morrin council sent this letter highlighting points that were laid out in the Annual Operations Review (AOR) as miscommunication between Riep and Morrin has resulted in a back-and-forth match of opinions and facts.

“… Keeping in mind that at no time did council intend to alienate the two municipalities but acted in good faith in performing their duty as elected officials to act in the best interest of the municipality and its citizens,” the letter, dated March 25, stated.

Riep performs his water operator duties for both Starland County and Morrin but has said he does Morrin’s water treatment work on his own time, keeping the work separate from his daily duties with the county.

“In the spirit of the Intermunicipal Collaboration Framework I would like to see only the employees of Starland and the village involved. 

As stated earlier by Mr. Riep, the village had no option other than to engage Pier Enterprises [at the time]. This was never an issue with me. However, the situation has now changed and there are employee operators available as indicated by Mr. Riep.”

Back in Dec. 2017, Morrin council met with Riep in the old Starland building to acquaint themselves with the water plant operations. 

This was the first time there was discussion about pursuing a replacement emergency pump gas engine with electric motor.

With the goal of eventually replacing the whole system by implementing new pumps, all at the meeting agreed they can look into but as a first step could start with replacing the outdated engine pump driver.

A quote for the pump driver was received. Later on, council asked Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Annette Plachner for a more detailed quote to be brought back.

On Jan. 22, 2019, Riep gave council the detailed report outlining how replacing the old fire pump was needed as its age and hand controlled operation of the unit.

He noted that the unit can still do what it needs to but must be started by hand and attended to during operation. 

The replacement electric motor would allow for automated control during a fire or loss of pressure within the system.

By Jan. 29, it was decided to go ahead and purchase as deadlines for receiving the Genset they require was closing.

In talking with the contractor, Collicutt Energy, they found that a 30 horsepower motor was needed. Photos and measurements were taken at this time as well.

The mayor requested a new quote be given with the additional costs as much of their water works was run out of the same building.

It was at this time the mayor asked if the county would be interested in sharing this cost.

Ripe explained that the county’s budget was already set for the year with only the GenSet included so if any additional costs were needed, the village would have to foot the bill.

By April 17, a new quote from Collicutt Energy was received. Council accepted this figure and directed the CAO to inform the county of their decision.

It was here that miscommunication unfolded as council ‘assumed’ that Riep was working on the project and was aware of the decision to move forward with the replacement on top of the additional costs presented by Collicutt.

Riep thought the additional costs outside of the generator and transfer switch were then trying to be given to Starland County instead.

“I would point out to Mr. Riep that at no time did any councillor act on their own to change the project, stated Mayor Helton. “The only action of a councillor, who was me, was to request Collicutt Energy to submit a quote and as stated earlier Mr. Riep was well aware of that. 

“Subsequently, council received said quote and made the decision to accept the project,” said Mayor Helton.

In closing, Helton added, “In my opinion, the Village of Morrin council has been elected to keep informed of the operations of the village and expects that all employees and contractors will understand their roles as well and make an effort to keep said council well informed and provide any and all information that is requested of them.”

Team grant

Sonya Nielsen, 18-2 summer camp grant researcher and Alia Nielsen, U-18 summer camp fundraising coordinator applied for the county’s team amateur sports grant to help keep people active.

They asked for $50 per participant to provide a “quarantine camp experience” since camps are cancelled this year just like many other gatherings this summer due to COVID-19.

As a way to help others still feel connected, they wished to create individual camp in a box package that includes things like hats and gear, sports balls and other equipment to complete camp challenges at their own home.

Council ultimately chose to turn down the request as their out-of-the-box idea did not fit the normal parameters of the grant.

Building update

At the last building meeting, Eagle Builders noted that they are now right on schedule and even a day or two ahead on the new county building to replace the one that burned.

The framing is completed and they are now drywalling.

By May 25, they hope to be priming and putting the first coat of paint on the first half of the office.

Chad hopes to be starting the sight work in approximately two weeks.

During the administration’s walk-through it was noted that the mezzanine above the inventory room was open to the shop, which will allow for all the dust and noise to travel through into the parts room and hallway, etc.

“We requested a quote to have this closed in, however, Werner noted that they need to get confirmation on the fire rating regulations, as he was told if the mezzanine is closed off on the one end, it is no longer considered a mezzanine,” reported CAO Bremer.

Once he has this figured out, he will provide a revised quote for council’s consideration.

They are now getting three quotes on the landscaping of the site also.

Eagle is hoping the county can get their generator as soon as possible so that they can prepare the site for it and determine what all will be needed.

“Hopefully the weather and everything will cooperate and we will still be on track for the end of July possession date,” said CAO Bremer.

County signs destroyed

Diana Rowe contacted the county office on Fri. May 8 and reported a lair of county signs had been broken off and stashed down a dirt road.

The County Peace Officer is now looking into this, but they are doubtful that they can determine who did this vandalism.

“Someone really hates Township Road 30-0,” said Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Shirley Bremer.


Terri Huxley

ECA Review

About the author

Terri Huxley

Terri grew up on a grain farm near Drumheller, Alberta with an eye for the beautiful and uncharted. Living in such a unique and diverse area has helped her become the photographer and reporter she is today.

Coming from the East Central region getting this newspaper on her dinner table growing up, it helped her understand the community she now serves.

In May 2019, Terri was awarded Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association (AWNA) Canada's Energy Citizens Photographic Awards Sports Action – First Place as well as first for the same sports action image nationally with the Canadian Community Newspaper Association (CCNA). Fast forward to 2020, she has won second in the same category for the AWNA.