WATCH: With more than 300 days of sunshine a year, Kimberley is the perfect place for Western Canada’s largest solar farm. The 5.3 million dollar SunMine project began operating in June. As Ted Chernecki reports, the first solar farm in the province to sell power to BC Hydro is already shining above expectations.
For over 100 years, the history of the Kootenays has been linked to the mining industry.
In Kimberley, a new chapter began last week – of a different sort.
“We’re getting back into the resource business again, only in a renewable fashion this time,” says Kimberley Mayor Don McCormick.
The 1.05 megawatt SunMine solar project began operations last week. With 4,032 solar-cell modules on 96 trackers, the panels track the sun with sophisticated technology, mining its energy, so to speak.
“It is very much the future of Kimberley. We’ve been generating electricity for four or five weeks, and have exceeded our expectations,” says McCormick.
They expected the 96 solar trackers would produce enough power for about 200 homes. But it’s producing enough for 275 – and they hope to expand capacity soon.
“We are already in conversation with potential partners and investors for an expansion. We have an infrastructure here that can expand to seven megawatts without an appreciable investment in infrastructure,” says McCormick.
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The idea was first raised in 2008, and the cost of the $5.3 million project was approved by city residents in 2011.
While it’s a new chapter for Kimberley, it’s also a renewal. The SunMine sits on the same land where the old Sullivan Mine, for decades one of the world’s largest one of the largest producers of silver, zinc and lead, once sat.
“It’s very much to the credit of the mayor and councils of the day, that knew one day the mine would be closing. In partnership with Teck, there was a lot of effort put into diversifying the economy,” says McCormick.
“It’s really a symbol of resiliency for Kimberley.”
WATCH: B.C.’s first grid-connected solar facility is up and running in Kimberley. Kimberley Mayor Don McCormick spoke about the benefits the solar farm will bring to the community.