A change in zoning for Epcor land is one of the last steps needed for the company to move forward with a 23-hectare solar farm in Edmonton’s river valley.
On Monday, city council will vote on the decision to make the land a direct “development control provision” to allow for the establishment of a utility service.
Currently, zoning for the land is “metropolitan recreation” and “environmental protection zone.”
The $26-million solar farm would primarily power the adjacent E.L. Smith Water Treatment Plant in southwest Edmonton and would be the first of its kind in the city.
It would produce more than 21,000 megawatts of electricity every year, and in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, it would be like taking 2,500 vehicles off the roads.
“Our most critical assets like our water and wastewater treatment operations are located in the North Saskatchewan River, so that’s why we’ve developed this project that’s safe and environmentally responsible,” said Craig Bonneville, E.L Smith solar farm project director, on Sunday.
The project has already gained support from city administration and approval from the Alberta Utilities Commissioner and Alberta Culture and Tourism.
Still, the solar farm is troubling for some environmentalists in the city. Members of the North Saskatchewan River Valley Conservation Society will be one of the presenters to go before council Monday, hoping to get councillors to vote no to the development.
“It’s a great idea, just not here,” said Stephen Madsen, president of the conservation society.
“Let’s think about the future, not just now, and let’s not set a precedent for development in the river valley.”
Madsen said that it’s “up to us” to guard the river valley for future generations.
Epcor’s website said it’s had over 850 conversations with the public. Through that, Epcor has revised plans to reduce the overall project footprint, increase the space between the river and the proposed project fence line, and provide the City of Edmonton with access to the property for future recreation trails.