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Red Deer County supports solar project with conditions

County council adds list of conditions to energy regulator’s approval of solar farm
Ontario-based Saturn Power Inc. has received Alberta Utilities Commission approval for a 20-megawatt solar project near Red Deer Regional Airport. (Photo from Saturn Power Facebook)

Red Deer County council was given assurances on Tuesday that funding would be available to restore a proposed solar power farm near Red Deer Regional Airport when it is no longer used.

Council approved 25 conditions to be added to those imposed by the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC), when it earlier approved Ontario-based Saturn Power Inc.’s application to build a 20-megawatt solar power farm at the north end of the airport.

AUC’s approval includes dozens of conditions, including that security be provided for the decommissioning of the solar farm, which has a 35-year expected lifespan, and the site returned to its former state.

It is expected to cost about $650,000 in 2021 dollars to restore the site, which the company hopes to cover by selling off its solar power equipment when it is no longer needed. To ensure decommissioning funds are there when needed, the company intends to set up an account and put aside money during the farm’s last 10 years of operation.

One of the county’s conditions called for a security to be posted to recover decommissioning and reclamation and to protect the county in case of company bankruptcy. A “periodic review” of the security would be done to ensure all was in order.

Coun. Philip Massier said the word “periodic” was vague and open to interpretation. He successfully proposed the condition be amended to include a review of the security situation at least every 10 years.

Coun. Christine Moore said she hoped the AUC’s requirements had the teeth to address issues should they arise and that the regulator will act quickly to residents’ concerns.

She hoped the “nightmares” of abandoned oilwells will not be repeated by new technologies, such as solar farms.

“We know it’s coming so we have to work with what we have to protect residents and landowners while welcoming economic development.”

Mayor Jim Wood said the solar farm is an important project for the county and will provide revenue for the airport.

“It’s something totally new to our area,” he said, adding more solar projects can be expected. “Solar is coming into our province.”

Saturn began developing the project began in 2019 and has included three years of community outreach and stakeholder consultation. One megawatt can power roughly 1,000 houses a year.

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