PACE Canada LP is planning a 14-megawatt solar farm in Caroline. Construction is expected to start in fall 2023. (Photo contributed)

Solar energy project planned for Caroline

Construction on solar panel farm expected to start fall 2023

The company behind a solar power farm near Joffre has plans for a smaller project in Caroline.

PACE Canada LP has proposed building a 14-megawatt solar power project on 57 acres of farmland within the Village of Caroline’s boundaries. Once operating, the $17 million solar project will reduce annual carbon emissions by about 12,300 tonnes and 273,000 tonnes over the 25-year life of the project.

For the Village of Caroline and its population of around 500 the project is long-awaited.

Caroline Mayor John Rimmer said another company had proposed a solar project about five years before PACE bought them out and stepped in.

The solar farm will provide an important economic boost to the community, he said.

Like many smaller communities with limited industrial and commercial development, a large share of the tax burden falls on residential taxes. A project like PACE’s helps improve that ratio.

“As a mayor and council we were looking at some more businesses moving in and relieving that tax burden,” said Rimmer.

Another benefit of the project is that it allows the use of land where options are limited to industrial development because of a sour gas pipeline. However, the village already had another area slated for industrial growth.

“This (project) seemed like a perfect fit if it could go through,” he said.

It is also hoped that if the village can use the solar energy to power its homes and businesses the community could reduce transmission costs from its energy provider Fortis Alberta. “That would be a relief to our citizens as well,” the mayor added.

PACE Canada director of development Claude Mindorff said the necessary permits and approvals are being lined up for a planned fall 2023 construction start. Power could be going into the grid by the beginning of April 2024.

“We’re really happy to see it going into Caroline. We think it’s going to be a good fit for the community,” said Mindorff.

The solar farm will be designed so that the landowners, who have farmed the land for property for many years, can continue to graze animals. Areas will be seeded with native plants to promote pollinators as well.

“It is zoned agricultural use and it will stay agricultural use even after the solar is installed,” said Mindorff.

Besides providing income to farm families and tax revenue for the municipality, PACE sees its projects as a way to provide an economic boost to small communities across the province, many of which are seeing their populations fall.

“We’re focused on not only bringing renewable energy developments but hopefully attracting companies that want renewable energy to make their products and processes,” he said. “People who are looking for renewable energy are going to move to Alberta because we have these projects.”

PACE’s focus is on community-based projects and Caroline is a concept that will be repeated in other communities.

“Caroline is kind of the model for what we call urban municipal solar projects.

“We’re looking at quite a number of new sites this year that will follow in the Caroline pattern.”

“There is lots of capacity on the distribution system. We’ve had no problem finding more sites to develop and that’s our plan.

“We have stated publicly that we’re trying to build 500 megawatts in the province of these types of projects, and we will achieve that.”

Last month, the company officially broke ground on a 47-megawatt project located next to Nova Chemical’s petrochemical complex at Joffre.

Construction is also underway on a six-megawatt project at Youngstown, a small village about 150 km east of Three Hills, and a 13-megawatt project at Sheerness, Alta., about 100 km north of Brooks, is in the permit stage.

A virtual open house will take place on Dec. 6 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. To register go to https://meet.zoho.com/locVADMREX

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.



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