Funding found for Alta. solar-thermal project

City officials in Medicine Hat, Alta. say it was easy to find funding for the city's new solar-thermal power project.

City officials in Medicine Hat, Alta. say it was easy to find money for the city's new solar-thermal power project.

The project, which was announced on Wednesday, will see one megawatt of power generated a year for the price of $9 million.

Deputy Mayor Ted Clugston admitted that makes zero economic sense. But he said city council thought the green project was morally the right thing to do.

The provincial and federal governments — which each kicked in $3 million — agreed.

"We've been trying to build a new hockey rink here in Medicine Hat, we've been trying to build overpasses, we haven't had a school built in 29 years, and we've been asking money for those things and we can't get them," said Clugston.

"But anytime you're doing anything for the environment in Alberta it seems to be easier to track other levels of funding."

The commercial-scale Medicine Hat Concentrating Solar Thermal Energy Demonstration Project will be the first in Canada to add a solar-powered steam generation system to an existing power plant.

The project involves the use of parabolic dishes to focus sunlight onto a black rod, which will in turn heat up fluid that goes into a steam turbine.

Solar-thermal energy is a carbon-free, renewable alternative to power generated with fossil fuels.

Clugston said Medicine Hat is the perfect location because it's Canada's sunniest city.

Medicine Hat's power plant also provides electricity to Redcliff, Dunmore, Veinerville and outlying rural areas. It generates about 200 megawatts a year, so the solar-thermal project will represent about 0.5 per cent of the plant's total output.

The city contributed the remaining $3 million.

The project is expected to be completed by the fall of 2012.