Peace River solar farm delayed due to moratorium

Emily Plihal
Local Journalism
Initiative Reporter

An Alberta government six-month moratorium on solar and wind energy projects has put a proposed Peace River project at a standstill.

Peace Energy Renewable Energy Cooperative (PEC) was days away from final approval for its cooperatively owned Peace River Energy Project (PREP) solar farm project that was planned near Peace River. PEC executive director Don Pettit says the Premier Danielle Smith’s decision has put their $11 million solar farm project on hold, a project they have been preparing for three years and one that provides share offering to its members and investors.

“This was a very unexpected shock, of course,” says Pettit. “After three years of detailed studies and approvals, it is hard to understand their rationale for putting up more roadblocks for such a beneficial clean energy project. Locally financed and operated, this solar facility will provide jobs and profits that will stay local while feeding green power into the local grid.”

The Province’s decision will put all new projects over one megawatt that were planned on the backburner, a movement that will pose a threat to the livelihood of thousands of Albertans working in alternate energy.

The PREP project is poised to be one of Western Canada’s first cooperatively owned and operated solar farms.

Smith announced the decision stating the government’s concerns include requirements for mandatory site reclamation requirements and the use of agricultural land for solar farms. Pettit says reclamation concerns for a solar farm are non-existent and that there are no after-life clean up issues.

“Because the solar resource cannot be used up, there may be no clean up at all,” he says, noting that much of the equipment will last for decades before requiring replacement.

“The equipment will simply be upgraded to harvest the sun’s energy more efficiently. The project can generate solar at this same location for generations.

“And besides, we have already provided our mandatory clean up plan, just like all the other solar projects.”

In addition, Pettit says the concern of agricultural land being taken out of production for solar energy is simply untrue. He says using the principles of “agrivoltaics” the PREP farm would increase the agricultural productivity of the land on which it is located, not decrease it.

“Native grasses, using sheep for vegetation control and other measures were all in place,” says Pettit.

“There are no issues that the studies we have already completed do not address. “

Alberta has been experiencing quick growth in solar and wind projects in recent years, many of which were waiting for Alberta Utilities Commission’s approval, but now have been put on the backburner until February of next year. Pettit cites information from the Business Renewable Centre, saying Alberta was on track to see $3.7 billion of renewable projects constructed by the end of this year. These projects would have created 4,500 jobs.

“The six-month pause recently announced will put a hold on all of these projects and may jeopardize the financial viability of many,” says Pettit. “This is bad for business, bad for the environment, and bad for rate payers since solar is now the cheapest energy ever.”

Pettit says PEC’s plans for the solar farm will still be executed, just with a project delay due to the recent decision.

“As far as we are concerned, our community-owned solar farm project is still a go,” says Pettit.

“There are several steps we can take to keep PREP moving forward, and we are going to take those steps, hoping that the Alberta government can figure out how to handle Alberta’s renewable energy boom. We can only hope they do so soon, very soon.”

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