September 25th, 2021

Solar play in Cypress would be Canada’s largest

By COLLIN GALLANT on August 24, 2021.

cgallant@medicinehatnews.com@CollinGallant

The company that recently secured a renewable power deal with Amazon is proposing to spend $1.2 billion on two new projects in southeast Alberta by 2024.

In a presentation to Cypress County council Tuesday, Greengate Power announced plans to build the “Midnight solar and storage facility” north of Redcliff.

With a 465-megawatt capacity it would be the same size as the company’s Travers Solar project in Vulcan County, which would equal the largest in Canada if it is completed next year, said Dan Tocher, Greengate’s vice-president of stakeholder relations.

The project near Medicine Hat is tentatively scheduled to be complete by the end of 2024, while a separate, 300-megawatt array and attached storage unit near Jenner would also move ahead.

“The solar resources in the area are phenomenal and we’ve found a couple locations where we can match the technology and sunlight and come up with some really decent solar projects,” said Tocher. “Our plan going forward is to own and operate (our power facilities).”

“Midnight” would be located on nearly eight sections of private land located about 12 kilometres north of Medicine Hat near the Box Springs Road.

The estimated construction budget is $700 million.

The other project, dubbed “Jurassic” due its relative proximity to Dinosaur Provincial Park, would cost $500 million to build about 12 kilometres southwest of the hamlet of Jenner, mostly in Special Areas No. 2.

This spring the company made major news by contracting the production from its planned 120-megawatt Lathom Solar project, near Bassano, to Amazon as that company looks to reduce carbon footprint.

Currently, Greengate is constructing the Travers Solar Project in Vulcan County.

The project in Cypress county would be similarly sized and include a battery storage facility that would allow it to shift production onto the grid during twilight periods or overnight.

The intermittent nature of renewable power production (i.e. daylight hours for solar panels) has led critics and industry observers to worry about a gap in demand in early evening. Demand remains high from air conditioning units at that point during the summer, but production drops as the sun sets.

Storage would allow companies to shift that production forward, allowing them to take advantage of high prices and pick up more demand.

Cypress County councillors questioned Tocher about the facility’s fire abatement and containment plan.

He said the company planned to graze the land with sheep, employ weed control and choose suitable vegetation that would limit fire risk.

Firebreaks would be used at the site, comprising 23 quarter-sections, said Tocher, stressing that fire on site has limited potential to damage equipment, but the overall goal is to prevent spread into or out of the site.

“The chance of (prairie) fire is a big deal, and we’re going to work with the county on a plan that fits with everyone involved,” he said.

The company plans to launch a wider public information campaign with open houses in 2022, at which point they could provide a revised timeline, said Tocher, and embark on permitting process with utility regulators and the county.

Roughly 1,000 construction jobs could be created over two years to build both projects, and about 10 to 20 full-time operational positions would be required afterwards.

The company estimates the Cypress County facility would provide about $80 million in local tax revenue over its 35-year lifespan, or about $2.2 million per year, not factoring inflation.

The same taxation estimate figure for Jurassic is $35 million, mostly to the Special Areas, though one quarter-section lays in Cypress County. Both are located near existing transmission lines.

Combined, the projects could produce enough electricity to power 250,000 homes, and each would be capable of producing as much to nearly double the electricity in peak conditions as the City of Medicine Hat’s generation units.

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