On February 20, the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) approved EPCOR's application to construct and operate a solar farm adjacent to the E.L. Smith Water Treatment Plant in Edmonton.
In approving the project, the Commission concluded "approval of the project is in the public interest having regard to the social, economic, and other effects of the project, including its effect on the environment." The Commission further concluded that "although the Commission recognizes that the North Saskatchewan River valley, the location proposed for the project, is an important resource for the City of Edmonton and its citizens, upon consideration of the current land-use of the site, combined with the mitigation measures proposed and commitments made by EPCOR Water, it is satisfied that the social and environmental impacts would not be significant."
In rendering its Decision, the Commission identified a "gap" in the existing legislative framework that does not expressly permit a new power plant to supply the electrical needs of the plant owner on its private property while simultaneously exporting excess energy generated from the new plant to other Alberta consumers through the Alberta grid. However, the Commission approved the project on the basis that EPCOR's intended purpose can be achieved through alternative means within the legislation. EPCOR will conform to the alternative means identified by the AUC.
EPCOR still requires approval of its Land Development Application for the E.L. Smith solar project from the City of Edmonton. We are currently in the process of reviewing and revising our Application based on feedback from the City. We anticipate a public hearing will take place on the rezoning in Q2 or Q3 2019.
The E.L. Smith solar farm project has already received approval under the Historical Resources Act from Alberta Culture and Tourism. It has also received financial support from Natural Resources Canada and Alberta Innovates to help enhance the solar farm into a complete micro-grid system by including a battery energy storage system. Combined with the E.L. Smith solar project, the micro-grid system will use the latest innovative technologies to add resiliency to the E.L. Smith Water Treatment Plant, reduce reliance on the electrical grid and offer unique research and learning opportunities related to large-scale renewable energy and smart grid technology—the first of its kind in Canada.
The solar farm is designed to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Edmonton and help to mitigate climate change, which will benefit the city overall. EPCOR believes the proposed E.L. Smith solar project is the best and lowest-cost option for developing a new source of renewable energy within Edmonton.