An aerial rendering of Strathmore Solar Farm. (Prairie Sunlight photo)
STRATHMORE – Construction is set to begin in early 2021 on the proposed Strathmore Solar Farm after it received a major regulatory approval.
A proposed 40.5-megawatt (MW) solar facility, Strathmore Solar Farm will be sited on approximately 320 acres of municipal property in the town’s southeast, located south of the Trans-Canada Highway and east of George Freeman Trail (RR 251).
The project was started by Solar Krafte Utilities, a Vancouver-based company with seven solar farms built or proposed across southern Alberta. Solar Krafte has partnered with Capital Power, an Edmonton-based power generation company, which is providing up to $55 million in capital investment, conditional on successful permitting and regulatory approval.
On. Nov 27, the solar farm passed the last major regulatory hurdle in the public regulatory review process, when the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC), the primary provincial utilities regulator, granted it a power plant approval and a connection order.
While the project is being funded by Capital Power, Solar Krafte will continue to be involved for the life of the system, said company president Mark Burgert.
“That’s what we do with everything we’ve built,” he said. “Where the capital comes from and how the ownership is allocated is really irrespective of how we build a reputation and how passionate we are about everything we build.”
Construction on the project will start in 2021, with an expected date of completion in 2022, according to information on Capital Power’s website. But for several months already, the procurement of some of the key elements for construction has been underway, said Burgert.
The project has most of its permitting complete, but still requires some electrical permits.
“They come very late in the game,” he said. “But aside from those, everything is permitted here.”
The companies will also be working to ensure all conditions set by the town’s development permit are met.
All construction work for the project will be contracted. Some of the companies used will perform general construction tasks, such as driving piles, that are not specific to the solar industry, while others will perform more specialist tasks, explained Burgert. “It’s a hybrid approach.”
The project will be like Solar Krafte’s two existing plants near Vauxhall, Alta., but there may be some subtle differences, he said. “The modules, inverters or substructure can change slightly, depending on everything from the geotech and solar conditions, to any site-specific conditions that come into play.”
There could also be differences because of costs, as supply chain dynamics affect module pricing between several providers, noted Burgert.
“But, fundamentally, it’s the same system,” he said.
Burgert anticipates the lease with the Town of Strathmore for the project site will commence soon.
The project is slated to have a significant economic impact to Strathmore, as it will provide economic diversification and revenue from the lease and property taxes, said Doug Lagore, Strathmore CAO.
“We’re very pleased the AUC has given the approval and now we can proceed,” he said, adding the project will also create recognition for the community across Alberta.”
The announcement comes at a fortuitous time, when communities across Alberta are suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic and a general downturn in the overall economy, including disruptions in the oil and gas industry, said Lagore.
“This is perfect timing for our community,” he said. “It is going to provide us with some additional revenue right away and we’re really looking forward to them becoming a huge corporate partner in our community.”
By Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Strathmore Times