EPCOR’s plans to develop a 21-hectare solar farm in southwest Edmonton has inched closer to becoming a reality after a close vote at a city council meeting on Monday night.
Following public hearings, councillors voted 7-6 in favour of a rezoning application that would allow the project near the E.L. Smith Water Treatment Plant to move forward.
Councillors Tim Cartmell, Jon Dziadyk, Andrew Knack, Scott McKeen, Mike Nickel and Aaron Paquette voted against the proposal.
The $25.9-million project will see solar energy become the primary source of powering the water plant. Last year, public hearings were also held on the proposal and at that time city council asked EPCOR to embark on further community consultations on the matter.
Dozens of people spoke at the most recent hearings and concerns were raised about ecological impacts and the effect the project could have on wildlife.
“This sets the precedent of developing industrial projects in our river valley,” Nickel tweeted. “An incredibly sad day for Edmonton.”
Paquette tweeted that he voted against the rezoning application “due to the various concerns raised about ecological impact, archaeological questions and the current availability of renewable energy on the market.”
“But the debate is now closed,” he tweeted.
McKeen raised concerns about the scale of the project and spoke of the river valley as being the city’s most important asset.
“What is the best use of that land?,” he asked. “And that I would say is to allow it to return to a more natural state.”
Coun. Sarah Hamilton said there were some excellent points and genuine concerns were brought up at the hearings but said the question before council was whether to allow for a solar farm to be built by an industrial site that has been deemed essential.
“We have been presented with a reasonable case for a land-use change,” she said.
“If everybody finds a reason not to build these types of projects you end up building absolutely nothing anywhere or near anyone.”
On its website, EPCOR says the project “will have a peak generation capacity of approximately 12 megawatts.”
“If the solar farm produces more energy than the water treatment plant can use, any excess will either be stored in our proposed battery energy storage system or exported back to the electrical grid,” the utility provider says.
According to EPCOR, the 45,000 solar panel project will not interrupt access to recreational trails and green space near the project site.
The company says the project will, among other things, allow it to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and offer research opportunities in the field of renewable energy.
The project had already received regulatory and environmental approvals.
Watch below: Some Global News videos about a EPCOR’s proposed solar farm in Edmonton.