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Groundbreaking held for central Alberta solar project

Joffre solar plant, developed by PACE Canada LP
Officials participated in the official groundbreaking ceremony for the Joffre solar plant on Oct. 24, 2022, in Lacombe County. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

Construction of a 47-megawatt solar project by PACE Canada is officially underway at Joffre.

Officials threw shovels of dirt into the air at a groundbreaking event Monday afternoon on the site of the solar plant, located next to the huge Nova Chemical petrochemical complex in Lacombe County.

Claude Mindorff, director of development with PACE Canada LP, said the site was chosen for its proximity to the nearby substation.

“Everybody right now is trying to concentrate on connecting to the transmission projects where they can do hundreds of megawatts. We’re focused on finding those little 20 to 25-megawatt projects that are scattered around Alberta which we think is a better overall economic development engine,” Mindorff said.

Nova has no connection with the project, but has been a supportive neighbour, he said.

The power generated by the $65-million project, which will be built in two phases, will 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 initial 25-year life of the project.

Mindorff said about 250 people will be employed during construction, and when it’s complete the former pasture will maintain its agricultural connection.

“Basically what we’re going to do is set up a program of grazing in here that will rotate the sections of a solar farm with a herd of sheep with a local shepherd. We provide the water and fencing for him so basically, we’re continuing the agricultural usage.”

He said as much construction as possible will be done in the winter. With the proximity to Red Deer, workers will be nearby and can work when the temperature permits.

“People won’t have to go far to come to work. Some of the projects in Alberta are in the middle of nowhere. There’s no housing so it’s a big cost to maintain a project through the winter. Generally in Alberta, they just shut solar projects down from January to March.”

Mindorff expects construction to be finished in time to energize the solar farm by mid-2023, maybe earlier.

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr said Alberta’s government is committed to being leaders in clean energy.

“Our oil and gas is some of the cleanest energy in the world and we’re actually leading Canada in green energy technology as well. The fact that this is happening here is proof of that, and this is just one project out of many,” Orr said.

He said affordability is a big issue for people right now and locating the solar project where infrastructure already exists eliminates the cost of building new transmission lines for taxpayers.

“I’m thrilled to see this happening here,” Orr said.

The project is the result of three years of development efforts leading to the November 2021 Alberta Utilities Commission approval.

PACE Canada LP is a partnership jointly and equally owned by Pathfinder Clean Energy, a global clean energy development and investment company, and GOLDBECK SOLAR, a German company specializing in the construction of large-scale solar power plants, based in Germany.

The project is being constructed by Canadian EPC, GP Joule NA.

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