Peace River considers solar project

Susan Thompson
Express Staff

The Town of Peace River is submitting a letter of intent to seek provincial funding for a solar energy project.

Wanda Laurin and Wayne Davie, members of the public, presented the idea to town council at the May 6 governance and priorities meeting and asked the town to submit a letter of intent for grant funding from the province through the Municipal Community Generation Challenge.

The grant provides 75% funding compared to a 25% cost to the Town, with up to $10 million available for an unknown number of projects across the province.

Mayor Tom Tarpey asked if the grant would still be open through the new UCP government.

“That was one of the things that was asked in the webinar [on the grant] by municipalities because we just changed government, and they said the money is in the bank,” Laurin said.

“What is the vision? Are we going to put this on the arena, or?” asked Tarpey.

“It’s kind of wide open,” Laurin said. “So one suggestion is there are some projects that are on facility buildings so that’s a potential. But another potential would be we have talked about the airport because there is the transmission just down the block, there is line capacity, there is an open field that has no shading, it has no fog from the valley, it misses no daylight hours, so the idea of the airport was what we thought would be a good, but it could be on your buildings because that would offset your energy usage.”

Laurin said B.C.-based cooperative Peace Energy has offered to assist in any way possible with the project if it goes ahead.

“Peace Energy says they have done projects before, they would be prepared to come and facilitate in some of the timeline things you have to do, engage the community with educational events, solicit input, develop a list of potential partners,” Laurin said. “As they are already a cooperative, there’s the option to join them as a cooperative because they’re already established.”

Greg Towne, Director of Corporate services and Economic Development, said once the letter of intent is submitted the next concrete deadline is in August. That would give the town time to determine what relationship with the co-op they would have if any, where a solar project would be located, talk it over with the public, and decide on other details.

“Truthfully our biggest bang for the buck would be at the water treatment plant, that is by far our biggest electricity user, but from the network connectivity point of view at the location that might not be the best. So we would have to look at whatever facilities we have,” Towne said.

He pointed out the airport is actually Peace River’s fifth largest electricity user so the balance of any power produced there would have to go back onto the grid, and the town would have to find more information on how that would work.

Overall, however, he said administration was supportive of the idea.

“From a power perspective, I’ve actually been involved in renewable energy facilities. I helped construct a wind facility in Nova Scotia,” Towne said.

“The capital cost is the largest driver of electrical cost, and if you can get something that is 75% funded, that drives down your own per kilowatt hour cost and makes it very reasonable. So any time you get significant external funding like this, the payback will be significantly reduced.”

Since the letter of intent is not a firm commitment, no motion was needed to send it, on the condition that administration will update council as the application process continues and bring a motion to council later as needed. No councillors objected to sending a letter of intent.

Successful projects will be notified in December if they receive funding.

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