By as early as mid-spring 2019, the rolling valleys of the Drumheller area will soon be home to a new Solar Generation Facility constructed by ATCO and Samsung C&T.
The partners are planning to build and operate a 25 megawatt (MW) solar power generation facility approximately one kilometre northwest of Drumheller.
The project has the potential to generate approximately 44,000-megawatt hours (MWh) annually, which is enough to power approximately 6,000 households on average.
It will span approximately 240 acres, all of which is privately owned land.
Public consultation with people in the area has just come to an end. One-on-one consultations with landowners within 800 metre of the planned location has also been in full swing.
“All of the comments seem to be fairly positive,” said Nick Peelar, Supervisor Operations Drumheller –South East Region.
“You know ATCO has been an Alberta-based company for years and we try and stay in the communities that we work in and we are happy to possibly bring another project to this area,” said Peelar.
This information will be summarized and used when the companies file an application to the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) in early 2019.
Michichi, Ab. was chosen because of its consistent solar production much like the rest of Alberta. The province is known to be the best area in North America.
“Well Alberta is actually one of the best places in North America for solar facilities like the one we are proposing and Alberta is one of the best places in Canada as well,” said Peelar.
Other site selection criteria were then explored such as terrain, proximity to existing electrical network, lack of wetlands and wildlife habitat, lack of pipelines, absence of environmentally sensitive areas, current land use, zoning requirements, environmental constraints and access.
They also highlighted the importance of a ‘progressive community’ that would be interested in embracing the new renewable resource project.
Feedback from stakeholders, as well as information from field surveys and other sources, is used to understand and mitigate concerns related to the project.
As for noise, neighbouring areas will notice construction as the loudest time of the process.
The AUC states that in order to keep noise to a minimum, the companies plan to work between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Once the solar modules are in place, the construction of electrical collection systems and wiring components will be completed.
The final stage of construction will include site landscaping, the removal of construction related equipment and seeding of disturbed areas.
The construction of the project is expected to take approximately six to nine months to complete.
Some residents nearby may be worried about the glare from the solar panels but this will not be a problem as the solar panels are designed to function by absorbing sunlight which is then converted into electricity.
The airport on the other side of Highway 56 will not have any concerns either as one of the solar facilities that Samsung C&T has developed and constructed in Canada is a 50 MW solar project at the Windsor International Airport in Ontario.
When the project reaches the end of its life, the companies will review the possibility of upgrading the site by adding new panels to the existing electrical and structural infrastructure.
If this upgrade is not possible, the facility will be decommissioned.
As part of this process, all infrastructure would be removed and the property would be reclaimed back into useable agricultural land.
So far, the project is in its early stages but once the application is approved, they will begin work in the area.
Anyone with questions who would like more information is encouraged to visit the ATCO website at atcopower.com and look under the projects tab.