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Citizens asked to weigh in on proposed solar farm in Edmonton river valley

Click to play video: 'Edmonton-area conservation groups raise concerns over proposed solar farm'
Edmonton-area conservation groups raise concerns over proposed solar farm
WATCH ABOVE: Conservation groups in the Edmonton area are raising alarm bells over a proposed solar farm. Fletcher Kent explains why – Feb 7, 2018

The city is considering rezoning a water treatment plant in Edmonton’s river valley for a solar farm and it wants to hear what residents think.

The proposal would see the area around the E.L. Smith Water Treatment Plant site (16910-35 Avenue NW, 16850 & 16880-Anthony Drive NW) rezoned from a Metropolitan Recreation Zone to a Public Utility Zone. That change would allow for a solar farm to be developed in the river valley.

“The intent is to align with the City of Edmonton’s The Way We Green strategy,” EPCOR’s Craig Bonneville said.

“The main objective of the project is to make sure we’re playing our part in the transition of energy.”

READ MORE: ‘It’ll become a no-brainer’: Edmonton’s solar pioneer predicts exponential growth 

While river valley conservationist Steve Madsen is all for green energy, he’s worried about this location.

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“The city has kept that area green and we’ve fought for the ribbon of green. The city has supported it and now the province is supporting it because they see the value in it,” he said.

Madsen believes there are better options for solar, including on existing rooftops. He’d prefer no development in the river valley.

READ MORE: Solar panels installed on Edmonton community league buildings 

“Often it starts out as, ‘Oh, it’s just this. It’s just a small thing.’ But we always know that when you go down that slippery slope — if you’ve given approval to one area or one group or one jurisdiction, even it’s within our own city area, how can you say no to others?”

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He worries rezoning would open the door for other kinds of development.

“How can you say you can have solar power but you can’t have windmills? Where do you stop?” Madsen asked.

READ MORE: Ribbon cut on new trails connecting Sturgeon County, Edmonton River Valley 

The 12-megawatt solar farm would primarily power the EPCOR E.L. Smith Water Treatment Plant.

“To meet the objectives of the direct tie-in to the water treatment plant, it has to be located immediately adjacent to the facility,” Bonneville explained. “If we locate it elsewhere, and tie it into the grid, that would come with additional costs to the project.”

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“If you were putting a solar panel on your roof, you’d put it on your roof, not halfway across the city.”

In order for the plan to go ahead, amendments would have to be made to the North Saskatchewan River Valley Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP).

“We don’t feel it’s the right place for it,” Madsen said. “There’s lots of other areas around here that solar farm can be placed and can be pumped into the grid.”

READ MORE: 500 solar panels cover south side of downtown Edmonton office tower 

A drop-in open house will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 13 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Good Shepherd Elementary School gym (18111-57 Avenue NW).

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Participants will learn more about the proposal and have the chance to give feedback on the plan.

Public input will be included in a report to city council before a final decision on the proposed rezoning is made.

READ MORE: Edmonton city councillors vote to rezone Whitemud Road to allow for controversial condos 

The project will need approval from the city for the rezoning and an application will also be sent to the Alberta Utilities Commission.

Bonneville says it signals a move towards environmental sustainability.

“If we want to do that, it’s projects like these that we have to support and make sure they get established.”

An update on the proposal will be presented to Edmonton’s utilities committee in a couple of weeks.

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