A solar farm in Edmonton’s river valley has officially been energized.
The 51-acre farm will provide the E.L. Smith Water Treatment plant with about 50 per cent of the power it needs to produce clean water. EPCOR says it is Canada’s largest municipal solar farm with a battery energy storage system and smart grid.
“It’s really exciting for us,” said Stuart Lee, president and CEP of EPCOR.
“What’s really unique about this project is the fact that you are producing clean water with clean energy.”
Trina Manning, senior manager of sustainability with EPCOR, said electricity from the solar panels will go directly to the water treatment plan to produce drinking water for Edmonton and 65 regions around the city. About 65 per cent of the water for the whole region comes from this plant, she explained.
Power from the solar panels can also go to the battery for storage to be used when they can’t generate the electricity with the sun, Manning explained.
“In other cases when we are generating more electricity than the water treatment plant needs, that electricity then can be fed to the grid,” she said. “Before, we would have got all the electricity directly from the grid for the water treatment plant.
“Reducing greenhouse gases is going to have a benefit for the whole river valley, for this area.”
Lee said the full cost of the project is still being finalized, but added about $10 million came from federal grants. Given the recent rise in energy prices, Lee said the savings from this project will be “significant.”
“The expected life of this project is 25 to 30 years and within that time frame, it will pay for itself,” he said.
The farm stands on traditional Enoch Cree Nation territory. The name kīsikāw pīsim means daylight sun. The name was decided at a traditional Indigenous naming ceremony in January.
The farm itself hasn’t been without controversy. At first, the Enoch Cree Nation was opposed to the farm, but Chief Billy Morin told Global News earlier this year that conversations with EPCOR and the City of Edmonton changed his mind.
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Others, including wilderness groups, raised concerns about the ecological impact of the development.
After concerns were raised, city council asked EPCOR to do more community consultations and re-evaluate if the project needs to go in that specific spot.
“Through the process of community engagement, we did get lots of feedback associated with concerns,” Lee said. “A lot of that was then incorporated into the design of the facility, including further setbacks from the river, looking at how we could actually ensure that different wildlife was able to move through the corridor on the river.
“I think that whole process actually made this a better project and we’re very proud of the environmental process that we went through to ensure this was designed and constructed properly.”
sipiwiyiniwak councillor Sarah Hamilton said the project was ultimately approved by council in a 7-6 vote.
“The question at that time was, is this kind of river valley development deemed essential? Because it says in the river valley bylaw that projects should be deemed essential,” she said.
“There was a lot of work done to allay any fears and I haven’t heard much from residents since the project was approved.
“It’s healthy for our democracy, it’s healthy for our city to have those conversations. I think that as a result of the long regulatory process, I think the city got the better product out of that.
“As we saw today, there is a much stronger relationship with Enoch Cree Nation. I think it sets a very high bar for future projects that may be pursued in the river valley.”