By Collin Gallant on January 25, 2019.
The province’s largest solar power project could break ground this spring near CFB Suffield, according to company officials who received a major federal grant on Thursday.
Ottawa will provide $15.3 million from a renewable energy development fund for the near $50-million Suffield Solar field, a project of C&B Alberta. That 91,000-panel farm would be situated on 202 acres of privately held land south of the Trans-Canada Highway, 10 kilometres west of the Hamlet of Suffield.
It would be about 50 per cent larger than the Solar 1 facility that sits on the eastside of Brooks, with new technological features that make it eligible for federal innovation funding.
First proposed in 2016 alongside a spate of solar farms — including five others from the same company — construction could begin as early as this spring, according to regulatory documents. If so, it could push that combined value of renewable energy projects in Cypress County above the one-quarter-billion-dollar mark for 2019.
Officials said in a release from Natural Resources Canada that technology will increases the facility’s reliability during winter months
“This project will showcase our latest solar technology in the high-efficiency bifacial modules,” said Shawn Qu, chairman of Canadian Solar, which is one half of the C&B partnership with Bowmont Capital.
“Many thanks to NRCan for its support for the development of clean and sustainable energy solutions in Alberta. As an emerging industry around the world, solar project development has realized its great potential in job creation during construction, operation and maintenance.”
The project could employ up to 250 workers during construction, many of them “local to the project,” according to a brief statement by the company.
The field plan states a production capacity of 23 megawatts from panels mounted on bases that pivot to track the sun. It would also use “bi-facial” panels, which can absorb sun on both faces — something designers say will boost power production by 15 to 20 per cent during winter months when rays are reflected up from snow-covered ground.
Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi said during an announcement on Thursday the technology used will be a first in Canada, and the government’s investment would create economic activity and reduce carbon emissions.
“Increasing our expertise, creating jobs and forging ahead with new technologies in high-growth industries like solar will help ensure Canada’s success,” he stated in a release. “On top of providing new sources of electricity to the local grid, increased awareness of renewables will help spur investment and support at the provincial, territorial, municipal and utility levels.”
In December, the Alberta Electric System Operators’ renewable energy auction awarded contracts to two other projects in the boundaries of Cypress County.
South of Irvine, a 48-turbine windfarm is proposed by EDP Renewables, and a smaller wind farm near Jenner was also awarded a supply contract.
C&B Alberta also has six other similarly sized solar farm projects located in Cypress County, the County of Newell or Taber areas, before regulators.
Ottawa’s Emerging Renewable Power Program provides up to $200 million to expand the portfolio of commercially viable renewable energy sources.
Based in Guelph, Ont., Canadian Solar operates in 30 countries where it develops facilities, and also offers servicing and products to other utility firms.
It operates U.S. farms in Texas, California and North Carolina.