An application is before the Alberta Utilities Commission to build 22- and 25-megawatt solar power plants in a $52-million project near Joffre. (File photo from The Canadian Press)

An application is before the Alberta Utilities Commission to build 22- and 25-megawatt solar power plants in a $52-million project near Joffre. (File photo from The Canadian Press)

Central Alberta solar power project seeking regulator approval

$52-million project would see 22- and 25-megawatt power plants built

A proposed $52-million solar project planned near Joffre is awaiting approval.

Applications were submitted earlier this month to the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) for the first phase of the project, a 22-megawatt solar power plant and a 25-megawatt second-phase plant that would be built next to Nova Chemicals’ Joffre facility.

They are being developed by Pace Canada LP, a joint venture between Calgary-based Switch Power and Pathfinder Clean Energy, a global clean energy development and investment company.

They hope to get AUC approval in the coming weeks, said project development lead Jillian Haneiph. Conditional approval has already been granted by Lacombe County’s municipal planning commission.

Background work on the 47-megawatt facility began in 2018. The project would be built in two phases — 22 megawatts in the first phase and 25 megawatts in the second — and create almost 40 construction jobs.

Power generated would go into the provincial electrical grid and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 47,000 tonnes per year and 1.4 million tonnes over the expected 25-year life of the project.

The project was originally expected to be operating by this December, however, the new in-service date is now December 2022.

“This allows for us to construct in spring 2022 when we believe current COVID-19 considerations and restrictions will no longer be relevant,” said Haneiph in an email.

Construction is expected to begin next May and be completed by the end of November.

A number of environmental studies, including breeding bird, raptor nest and fall migration surveys, have been undertaken, along with watercourse and wetland mapping.

Glint and glare studies will also be done to ensure that nearby residents or passing drivers are not affected by the south-facing solar panel arrays, says the company.

Lacombe County manager of planning services Dale Freitag said the municipality welcomes the investment and anticipates there could be more projects coming.

“We do have a lot of major companies, not only in the solar industry but in the oil and gas industry, that are interested in setting up solar farms in the area,” said Freitag on Thursday.

On the regulatory side, the county has already put green energy policies in place. And Mother Nature provides an average of 320 days of sunshine a year in the county, which makes it well suited to solar projects.

“Definitely in Lacombe County we have fielded (calls from) multiple different companies looking at what the regulations are in the county and setting up solar facilities.”

The AUC says that anyone who feels they may be affected by the project contact them. Written submissions must be in by Oct. 1.



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