June 16th, 2024

Land’s potential key aspect of Saamis Solar opposition

By Medicine Hat News on April 10, 2024.


Intervenors opposing the Saamis Solar Park proposal keyed on the potential for land beneath half the 1,600-acre project in north Medicine Hat to be used for other purposes, a regulatory hearing examining the project heard on opening day Tuesday.

The solar power array was initially proposed as a 200-megawatt capacity system placed a top polluted land near fertilizer plants north of Crescent Heights. Developer, DP Energy, expanded the layout in 2020 to cover sections eastward toward fields north of Division Avenue when more land became available to lease and the economics of a larger plant were studied, DP lead developer Damien Bettles told a Alberta Utilities Commission virtual hearing.

However, lawyers for nearby landowners holding parcels near Ranchlands said the expanded footprint is contrary to long-term municipal plans for residential development further east.

Lawyers for several local residents concerned with the environmental impact questioned DP witnesses finding that the majority of bare-land under the eastern phase is marginal or previously disturbed land containing non-native grassland.

The hearing will not convene today, but will resume Thursday and Friday this week.

The $600-million project is subject to four days of hearings this month before final written submissions are due in early May for and against a power facility plant and substation to export the power to the provincial grid.

Questions from attorneys with the firm of McLennan Ross questions DP officials about the long-term municipal development plan and the definition of “long term” applied to the land’s zoning and future use as a residential development.

DP officials responded that useful lifespan of the solar panels could be 25-30 years, and potentially 10 years for construction and eventual decommissioning could be added.

The hearing also heard how the project evolved over the last eight years.

According to evidence, DP began developing the project in 2016, at a time when landowner Viterra had the lands listed for sale.

Bettles said at the time Viterra still hoped to sell the land to the east of the project, but agreed to lease talks on the portion over the stack in 2017 and later an agreement was reached for the eastern section.

The plan was discussed with city economic development officials in 2017, and the company was awarded a development permit for the initial stage in 2019 shortly after the News revealed the plan.

DP is represented by the law firm of Borden Laidner Gervais, which plans to call eight witnesses.

Medicine Hat Concerned Citizens is represented by Akroyd Law.

Bennet Jones represents Journey Energy, which holds drilling rights and has facilities in the area.

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