February 6, 2019 8:04 pm
Updated: February 6, 2019 8:19 pm

Largest solar energy project in Western Canada could be built within Calgary city limits

WATCH: A 156-acre lot off Barlow Trail S.E. is being eyed for a massive solar energy production facility which would house more than 1,500 solar panels. Adam MacVicar explains.

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Despite the lack of heat recently in Calgary, an Irish energy company is banking on a lot of sunshine to fuel a potential new solar energy farm.

DP Energy is proposing a 156-acre solar energy production facility within Calgary city limits. If approved, it would be the largest in Western Canada.

“We do have a number of small (solar) farms that are at the compost facilities and I think some of our landfills have a small array, but nothing of this size,” Ward 12 councillor Shane Keating said.

The company is eyeing a property in the Shepard industrial site off Barlow Trail S.E. which is currently owned by Viterra, which would lease the land to DP Energy.

The proposed site for the 156 acre solar energy production facility in southeast Calgary.

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The site is home to an old tailings pond that has been capped, which means development opportunities on the land are limited, but officials believe the fixed-angle solar panels won’t disturb the land underneath.

“The panels would be installed on a concrete base that would rest on top of the land so as to not disturb the soil cap below,” a report going before Calgary’s planning commission said.

READ MORE: Edmonton tech firm to turn windows into solar panels, gets financial boost to go commercial

The proposed project would see the construction of 1,576 solar panels arranged in 78 rows and is expected to generate 25 megawatt hours of renewable electricity annually.

“It takes land that is sterile, it puts in a method of producing electricity in the heart of the city,” Keating said. “I think this is the beginning of the future… and I think that’s why it’s a benefit to the city at this point.”

According to Keating, that kind of production could power between 3,500 and 4,000 homes, however, there have already been some discussions on what to do with the power generated at the plant.

The new Green Line LRT is designed to travel through the area adjacent to where the proposed solar farm would be built and Keating believes the accompanying new LRT maintenance facility could benefit from the project.

“The beauty of this is all of our CTrains are run by renewable energy,” Keating said. “So this is the win-win — we’re building something in the heart of Calgary that eventually could be running one of our CTrains.”

Although the project is being labelled a win-win for the city, there is concern for how it will impact the area.

The biggest is the potential for glare from the panels at multiple locations along three airport flight pathways: Deerfoot Trail S.E., Barlow Trail S.E., and 114 Ave S.E.

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But an analysis conducted by Stantec Consulting shows only a few areas that could see moderate glare.

“I’ve been assured the way the angle of the panels are and the fact that they can move them at different times a year, that it won’t be a concern,” Keating said.

It remains unclear whether there is any provincial money going toward construction of the project, but Keating believes the solar farm will be 100 per cent privately funded by DP Energy.

Based in Ireland, DP Energy is a renewable energy and sustainable development company with sites operating around the world.

Representatives from the company are expected to be on hand when the proposed solar project is presented to the city’s planning commission on Thursday.

City administration is recommending the planning commission approve the land development, at which point it will go in front of city council and then to a public hearing.

If all goes according to plan, Keating believes shovels could be in the ground later this year.

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