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Tag: Evolugen

Aerial map showing proposed site of Sunrise Solar Project near Pincher Creek.

New draft for proposed solar project in MD of Pincher Creek

A revised design for a proposed solar power project northwest of Pincher Creek was front and centre at an open house Jan. 16.

Slightly leaner in size than one presented almost a year ago, the project’s placement of solar panels is the biggest modification.

“We’ve made a number of changes that we think offer advantages relative to our earlier concept,” said Mike Peters, director of public affairs for Evolugen, the company behind the Sunrise Solar Project proposal.

“In spring 2023, we were in the community and held an open house. Subsequent to that, we’ve done a number of follow-up consultations and engagement with the public, with the town and with the MD.”

A visual change in the layout is the most substantive difference, Peters added.

“Within the quarter-section that was closest to town, we’re going to move [those panels] further north,” he said.

“So, that’s going to reduce the proximity to the municipal district boundary. As part of that, we’ve actually ended up reducing the size of the project by 15 per cent.”

 

Ad for Vape in Pincher Creek

 

Peters believes the new concept will help to reduce not only the visual impact but its effect on existing agricultural land in the area.

“We’re really trying to shrink our footprint,” he said.

While there’s no formal plan in place on who might be connected to the power generated from the solar panels, there’s no doubt it’s needed provincially in light of the recent extreme cold snap that saw power consumption result in grid alerts being issued for five consecutive days.

“We see the benefits of this project on so many levels,” Peters told Shootin’ the Breeze.

“We can look at it as an overall contribution to the electrical grid and this idea of bringing on new power generation to meet rising demand, new less carbon-intensive energy. So, we see that contributing to grid stability.”

Other benefits the company feels Sunrise will bring include stable long-term tax revenue to the MD, a rise in the need for local labour during the construction phase and something new to the table — a community benefits fund.

“We’re proposing initially a contribution of $25,000 annually,” Peters said. “That would be something that would be directed towards community priorities, causes, events, as a way to ensure the community is really benefiting from this project.”

If approved, this would be Evolugen’s second undertaking in Alberta. Its first venture, the Spring Coulee project, northeast of Cardston, with a 42-megawatt capacity, could be fully up and running by next month.

 

 

Ad for Dragons Heart Quilt Shop in Pincher Creek

 

End-of-season dry agricultural field near Pincher Creek, Alberta, with granaries and mountains in the background.

Changes proposed to future solar farm near Pincher Creek

The company behind a large-scale solar project planned for construction northwest of Pincher Creek is looking to make changes to its original proposal and, once again, is looking for public input.

Last spring, Quebec-based Evolugen presented the idea of a four-section solar farm just east of the Pincher Creek Colony and north of Highway 507 during an open house held March 28.

The Sunrise Solar Project, it says, will consist of more than 210,000 bi-facial photovoltaic panels on close to 600 acres of privately owned land. Its aim: to generate enough solar electricity to power the equivalent of about 28,500 homes every year.

 

Ad for Creekview Dental Hygiene clinic in Pincher Creek

 

The original proposal, shown below, would have seen almost all of the project erected to the east of Range Road 303.  It’s had a rethink.

 

Map of area in the MD of Pincher Creek proposed by Evolugen in 2023 to become a solar farm.

 

A new configuration, shown below, plans to reposition the solar structures.

 

Map of area in the MD of Pincher Creek proposed by Evolugen in 2024 to become a solar farm.

 

Ad for Sara Hawthorn, Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass realtor

 

Last year, Evolugen spokesman Mike Peters told Shootin’ the Breeze he anticipated the Sunrise project could generate about $140 million in local spending, the bulk of which would pay for solar panelling and construction costs, and could support two full-time positions post-construction.

According to the latest information on the project’s webpage, evolugen.com/facilities/sunrise-solar-project, noise impact and solar glare assessments have now been completed and it’s entered Stage 3 in the interconnection process with AESO, the Alberta Electric System Operator.

Stage 3 is usually a 32-week process that determines a game plan for filing applications with the Alberta Utilities Commission.

With a new proposal on the table, Evolugen is holding an in-person public open house on Jan. 16, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Heritage Inn, unveiling the new design in detail. Like last year’s session, it’s open to both MD and town residents.

With files from Laurie Tritschler

 

Table setting of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

Mike Peters, a white male with short brown and grey hair, moustache and beard, stands in front of information panels at an Evolugen open house in Pincher Creek,.

Sunrise solar project presented in Pincher Creek

A renewable energy company that plans to build a solar farm in the MD of Pincher Creek hosted community stakeholders Tuesday at an open house in town.

Evolugen, an affiliate of Canadian-based Brookfield Renewable Corp., invited residents within an 800-metre radius of the proposed project one week before the open house on March 28. Company representatives meanwhile had in-person conversations with residents within a 400-metre radius, as per provincial regulations, according to project spokesman Mike Peters.

The proposed Sunrise Solar Project has cleared initial regulatory hurdles at a time when renewable energy projects are proliferating across southwestern Alberta. Evolugen says the project will inject $140 million in local capital spending, but observers, including Rural Municipalities of Alberta president Paul McLauchlin, have cautioned that unrestrained development for renewables could disrupt local food-security networks.

The project aims to generate enough solar electricity to power the equivalent of about 28,500 homes every year, although Peters said the company intends to sell the energy to a corporate buyer through a power purchasing agreement. Evolugen hopes to deliver the juice by installing more than 210,000 photovoltaic cells on 575 acres of privately owned, cultivated land near Highway 507, northwest of town limits.

The landowners intend to raise sheep on-site if the project goes ahead, Peters said. Tristan Walker, energy project lead with the town and MD, said sheep are suited to solar projects because their constant grazing effectively mows grass without kicking up dust or rocks.

 

Ace of spades card on ad for Chase the Ace at the Pincher Creek Legion

 

Make hay while the sun is shining

Southwestern Alberta is ripe for solar energy due to its prevailing clear skies and its long summer days. The Pincher Creek area is relatively flat, allowing for solar farms on industrial scales.

Peters acknowledged that Sunrise would be a fairly big project, but “it’s certainly not the biggest” in the region.

Walker, who has no involvement with Sunrise or Evolugen, broadly concurred.

“In terms of solar farms, [Sunrise would be] a little bit smaller than a lot of projects that have gone through lately,” especially in Vulcan County to the northeast, he said.

Today’s photovoltaic cells generate power year-round, regardless of temperature, and can be adjusted to resist strong winds, Walker and Peters said.

Snow tends to melt off solar panels, especially because they’re designed to absorb light and heat. Photovoltaics inevitably reflect some glare, and Peters said Evolugen was working on a glare mitigation program for the benefit of local residents and motorists on Highway 507.

The company anticipates that Sunrise could generate about $140 million in local spending, the bulk of which would pay for solar panelling and construction costs, Peters said.

Evolugen would pay municipal taxes to the MD, while the farm would likely support two full-time positions post-construction, Peters said. Renewable energy isn’t subject to Alberta’s royalty scheme for non-renewable energy resources owned by the Crown.

 

 

Who allows the Sunrise? 

The RMA has consistently advocated for rural municipalities who say they want to be more involved in land-use decisions for all energy projects within their jurisdiction, prompting a conciliatory response from the Alberta Utilities Commission, which independently regulates the province’s utilities sector.

Food producers generally oppose fragmenting agricultural land for industrial development, but many producers welcome renewable energy projects on their land for the money the projects bring in.

“It’s obvious that utilizing [renewable] sources of energy is going to be an important part of our energy mix going forward,” the RMA’s McLaughlin told Shootin’ the Breeze shortly after a proposed wind farm near the Waterton Biosphere stirred controversy in Cardston County in mid February.

In determining whether or not utility projects are in the public interest, the AUC “makes land use decisions in rural Alberta, [without] considering incompatible land uses, food security, and other issues,” McLaughlin said.

Alberta Environment and Protected Areas signed off on Evolugen’s baseline environmental study late last year, ruling that Sunrise would pose a “low risk” to local wildlife and wildlife habitat, but provincial regulations don’t require assessments of potential disruptions to food security.

 

 

The AUC adjudicates projects on a case-by-case basis and has not yet ruled on the Sunrise farm. The regulator’s decisions “will prevail” when project approvals conflict with decisions by local governments, according to an FAQ page on the AUC’s website.

“The AUC encourages, appreciates and values municipal involvement and input in its regulatory decision-making process around energy projects and encourages their participation through its application rules,” a home-page bulletin states.

The proposed site falls within an urban fringe where the town and MD are obligated to consult each other on proposed developments, as per their intermunicipal development plan bylaws.

In order to be successful, project proponents would need MD council to rezone the Sunrise site for industrial use through a land-use bylaw amendment, according to Roland Milligan, the MD’s chief administrative officer. The amendment and subsequent permitting decisions would need to be referred to a joint IMDP committee, Milligan explained.

Solar energy doesn’t produce greenhouse gas emissions, but unmitigated heat absorption through solar panelling can fry topsoil to the point where disturbed land can’t support agriculture.

Evolugen hopes to get AUC approval by year’s end.

Evolugen hasn’t scheduled any follow-up public consultations in Pincher Creek or the MD, but Peters said the company will continue to engage stakeholders.