ATCO and Samsung C & T host Kneehill 2 Solar Open House

Kneehill Solar 2 Map

Approximately 35 people attended an open house on Thursday, September 20, 2018 hosted by ATCO and Samsung C & T who sought to answer questions from the public regarding the proposed Kneehill 2 Solar Generation Facility Project anticipated to be built 2 km northwest of the town of Three Hills. Residents may remember the Kneehill 1 solar field which was proposed one year ago, has since been approved, and is awaiting construction. Solar energy is a hot commodity, especially in the sun rich area Three Hills finds itself in.

The site of the proposed Kneehill 2 solar field is the 160 acre plot just south of Kneehill 1, on a privately held agricultural lot, land parcel NW-12-32-24-4. As is true with Kneehill 1, Kneehill 2 25 MW solar field will be capable of generating 44,000 MWh of energy each year of its operation, which ATCO says is enough energy to power 6,000 homes annually.

Electricity between the 85,000-100,000 panels will run underground to the switching station, then to overhead lines until it is added to the provincial utility grid system.

Concerns have been voiced regarding noise and light pollution, as well as the environmental impact this project may have. ATCO says that during the construction phase (a 6-9 month process) crews will be working from 7am-10pm. When the solar field is complete the noise level, while standing beside a panel, is predicted to be 40 dB, which is equivalent to a quiet library. There will be no standards of light present at the site after the construction phase, and solar panels will not reflect light or cause glare as they are designed to absorb light.

ATCO has taken great measures to ensure that a solar field of this size will not be an environmental hazard. A third party environmental company surveyed the area during peak migration seasons to ensure that, in addition to no nesting occurring in the area of question, there were no signs of migration taking place across the parcel of land. As it is a regularly cultivated field, nesting is not observed there. The panels will be high enough to accommodate wildlife passing through the field, and will cause no harm to birds who may land on them. Snow will melt off the panels, which are tilted and warm from the sun. ATCO has plans to plant native grasses and vegetation on the site, so that weeds will be managed and not spread to neighbouring fields.

After receiving community feedback through a mailed newsletter and the open house, ATCO and Samsung will be submitting the project for Alberta Utilities Commission approval. From there, plans will be made regarding timelines for construction. Should residents have questions, especially those whose property falls within 800 m of the solar field, should contact ATCO at 1-855-420-5775 or consultation@atcoelectric.com as the consultation process is still ongoing.