Solar Facility Open House held

ATCO Solar Farm

ATCO and Samsung C & T held a public consultation open house Tuesday evening, June 27 in Three Hills to share details of a proposed new solar generation facility to be built about 2.5 km northwest of Three Hills with a footprint of 160 acres within SW 13-32-24 W4. If approved, the project will include the construction of a 25 megawatt (MW) solar generation facility with the potential to generate approximately 44,000 megawatt hours (MWh) annually (power for roughly 6000 households). Residents in the direct vicinity of the project were being asked for their input on ways the project could affect them. Feedback from stakeholders included one-on-one consults this evening, and in-person phone calls, especially those with land interests that fall within 800 metres of the planned site.

June and July 2017 is the phase of project notification, stakeholder consultation process, and filing the application with Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC). If approved, construction is anticipated to start in mid-spring 2018. This phase involves surveying and staking, with most activities on site, though you can expect an increase in traffic with the hauling of materials to the site. Construction of foundations will be followed by the installation of structural support and solar modules, as well as construction of electrical collection systems and wiring. Construction is anticipated to take between six and nine months to complete. It is anticipated that the facility will be completed and operating by early spring of 2019.

It was explained that to optimize sunlight exposure, the solar arrays (combined length of solar panels) will be tilted at a 36 degree angle, facing to the south. The lowest side of the panels will be approximately one metre from the ground with the high side measuring around 3.5 metres in height. Vegetation will be allowed to grow on the property and will be maintained to heights that would not impact sunlight reaching the panels. Short-term impacts are expected following a heavy snow storm, but snow melts or naturally slides off the angled panels. Approximately 88,000 solar panels (320-340 watts each), 20 inverters and 10 transformers are to be housed within 10 middle voltage stations. There will be underground cables and a perimeter security fence. (An inverter is an electronic device used to convert direct current (DC) (continuous flow of current in same direction) to alternating current (AC) (continuous flow that alternates direction).

ATCO and Samsung are partners on this venture “to provide utility-scale solar solutions in Alberta.” Samsung C & T has global experience with developing solar facilities and other generation projects, including two 100MW solar projects in Ontario. Solar panels function by absorbing sunlight to convert into electricity and with the panels designed to absorb most of the solar spectrum, reflectivity is much lower than standard glass, with minimal reflection to impact people, drivers, or airplane pilots. In fact, they confirm that Solar facilities have been located in close proximity to airports (such as Windsor and Indianapolis International Airports).

While central Alberta is considered sunny enough for solar production other viable criteria include terrain, proximity to existing electrical network, lack of wetlands and wildlife habitat, lack of pipelines and an absence of environmentally sensitive areas.

Future considerations would be to review the possibility of upgrading the site by adding new panels and if not possible and the facility has to be decommissioned, all infrastructure would be removed and the property returned to usable agricultural land.

As coal-fired power is phased out, solar power is a renewable energy that will meet the demand of electricity in the province and reduce air emissions and greenhouse gas. The project will create jobs during construction with later opportunities once the facility is operational. There will be economic benefits and also educational opportunities (including local schools). During operations the facility will generate property tax revenue.

If you continue to have questions, were not able to attend the open house and would like to discuss the project further, you are asked to contact Kathleen Little, Project Planner, 1-855-420-5775 or email: consultation@atcoelectric.com