October 26th, 2020

Plans for solar plays on decommissioned fertilizer plants get key regulator OK

By Collin Gallant on October 17, 2020.


An engineering plan key to building a massive solar energy field in northwest Medicine Hat has earned approval from the province’s environment ministry and utility regulators.

Renewable power company DP Energy has said it plans to use concrete pads as mounts rather than driving piles at former industrial sites that have covenants against ground disturbance.

The company has three projects at decommissioned fertilizer plant sites, where phosphogypsum stacks remain capped, including a 1,000-acre site in Medicine Hat at the former Westco Fertilizer site.

This week the Alberta Utilities Commission approved in principal “Barlow Solar,” a 27-megawatt solar power production facility built on a former fertilizer plant site inside Calgary’s city limits.

The decision published on Wednesday cites correspondence with Alberta Environment and Parks that no amendments on its specific reclamation orders for the stack are required, nor an assessment specific to the reclamation.

DP Energy Officials told the News this summer that they planned to construct Barlow Solar and Deerfoot Solar (a similarly sized array, also in Calgary), in sequence, then move on to Medicine Hat, perhaps in two years time.

Here, “Saamis Solar” is planned to be built to a 300-megawatt capacity, leading to a budget estimate of up to $450 million, and connected to the Alberta power grid.

DP has argued that since most types of development are barred, renewable energy would make good use of fallow land, and has secured at least initial agreement from Viterra, the owner of the three sites.

The AUC decision states that in the case of Barlow Solar, a general environmental impact study and mitigation plan, standard for most projects, will be needed. A wildlife impact assessment would not, owing to its urban location.

The company is still in the process of selecting equipment models for Barlow, which is states could begin construction in July 2021 and be complete later next year.

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