Irish company more than doubles plan for solar farms in Calgary
DP Energy proposes solar panels on top of contaminated sites in southeast Calgary
DP Energy has already won approval for one solar park in southeast Calgary and is now pushing for a second in the Shepard Industrial park. Combined, the two would be one of the largest photovoltaic solar farms in Canada generating more than 60 MW of electricity, enough for 14,000 homes.
The company, based in Ireland, easily won approval at a public hearing at city hall in March. The hearing — to redesignate 64 hectares of contaminated land to allow for a power generating facility — lasted 11 minutes.
Two people, from DP Energy and Stantec Consulting, spoke in favour of the project, west of Barlow Trail and north of 114th Avenue S.E. No one spoke against it.
Shane Keating, the city councillor for the area, described the proposal for 1,500 solar panels at the time as "fabulous."
"It's taking, basically fallow land, that cannot be used for anything else, per se, and putting a generation project on top of it," he said at the hearing.
The site, owned by Viterra Inc., had been used as a fertilizer production facility. The soil cannot be disturbed without remediation. The company says the solar panels will sit on concrete footings to minimize ground disturbance.
Multi-million dollar investment
The land contains phosphogypsum, a by-product from the production of fertilizer. The area has been sealed with a clay cap. The company plans to enter into a long-term lease with Viterra to allow for the project. The company would not disclose any terms of the proposed agreement. However, it confirmed a request for proposals from qualified companies was issued earlier this month.
"I think it's well known in the market place that something in the region of 25-27 MW will certainly exceed a capital cost of $45 million," said John Kerr, who is the company's commercial director for Canada, based in Cork, Ireland.
The company says there are economic and environmental benefits.
"It will contribute to the local tax base and solar pv generation will help meet a growing electricity demand with zero carbon emissions," a company official told city council in March.
DP Energy wants to double its original proposal with a second site in the same industrial park.
"We have acquired an interest in that land from the same landowner," said Kerr.
The second, larger site is approximately 77 hectares and is located farther east along 114th Avenue S.E., west of 52nd Street.
The company has not yet submitted an application to the city for what it calls the Deerfoot Solar Park, however the project is outlined in an information package sent to nearby business and home owners.
The brownfield site, with similar development restrictions, would feature 2,000 solar panels capable of generating 35 MW of energy, pushing the total for both sites to 62 MW, one of the largest in Canada, according to Natural Resources Canada.
DP Energy is also expanding another solar farm proposed for Medicine Hat from 200 MW to 300 MW.
Kerr said the Calgary and Medicine Hat projects are unique to the company because they are located within city limits. The company has been involved in wind power generation for 25 years with facilities in the UK and Ireland and one in Ontario.
UCP to keep NDP renewable energy plan
The company's interest in Alberta, according to Kerr, is being driven by the province's goal to reach 30 per cent of power generation from renewable sources by 2030.
"The foot will be off the pedal on fossils in favour of renewables for the generation of electric power and we're finding a very, very strong market acceptance for what we're proposing to do," said Kerr.
A spokesperson for Alberta Energy confirms the goal, put in place by the former NDP government, remains in place.
"The legislated target for renewable electricity generation has not been repealed," said Kavi Bal.
However, the government was not able to confirm whether a specific timeline to reach that goal remains in place. Former energy minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd signed a ministerial order in February committing to the following targets.
- By 2022, at least 15 per cent of the electric energy produced in Alberta, measured on an annual basis, will be produced from renewable energy resources.
- By 2025 at least 20 per cent.
- By 2028 at least 26 per cent.
Alberta Energy pegs the most recent number at 10 per cent from renewable resources in 2018.
The department says so far this year, more than $2.3 billion has been invested in renewable projects in Alberta.
A spokesperson for the Alberta Utilities Commission says DP Energy has not yet filed its application with the regulatory agency.
The agency says approximately 35 solar projects have been approved by the commission for a total of 1,300 MW. However, the spokesperson points out, approval does not guarantee construction.
This month, DP Energy distributed information packages to business and homeowners near the two sites. An open house with company officials from Ireland is planned for Jan. 22 at the Shepard community hall at 10800 84th Street S.E.
Bryan Labby is an enterprise reporter with CBC Calgary. If you have a good story idea or tip, you can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter at @CBCBryan.