Solar farm finds a home, co-op pleased

Susan Thompson
South Peace News

A proposed solar farm has found a permanent home.

After months of negotiations, the Peace Energy Co-op has signed a 25-year lease on property 2.5 km southwest of the Town of Peace River.

The co-op’s goal is to build a 2-MW member-owned solar farm on the land in 2022.

Although the solar farm was originally going to be built at the airport, solar consultant Jenn Ford says, “The ownership changeover left that up in the air, so we had to move on.”

Established in 2003, the Peace Energy Co-op is Western Canada’s first renewable energy co-operative. The co-op has already built BC’s first commercial wind facility, Bear Mountain Wind Park [102 MW], and now designs custom solar systems, including supplying equipment and completing installation. With the Alberta Community Energy Project they hope to build the Peace region’s first community owned solar farm.

The property the co-op has officially leased for the solar farm project is owned by Glen Rovang. It’s close to a high-capacity power grid, has good road access, and most importantly, has full south exposure to the sun with no shading issues. It also has enough room to potentially expand the solar farm later.

“We need new industries to replace the ones we have lost, and this will provide local jobs, local training and income,” Rovang says in the co-op’s latest newsletter.

The next step for the co-op is to complete studies on grid interconnection, glint or glare, noise, and how the solar farm will impact local flora and fauna among other studies required by Alberta Environment and Parks and the Alberta Utilities Commission.

The Peace Energy Co-op has also worked out how to fund the solar farm solely from memberships after failing to secure a Municipal Community Generation grant, despite making it to the final stage of the grant competition process.

Only members will be able to invest directly in the solar farm if the project goes ahead.

The co-op is hoping to build its membership across Canada to 1,000 members. It already has 581 members in B.C., Alberta, and Ontario, and recently held a Zoom annual general meeting where two new directors were elected: Mike McPhail of Dawson Creek, and Wanda Laurin from Peace River. Laurin was one of the first people in the Peace to install solar at her home.

While Ford says it will be refreshing to eventually be able to hold the meetings in-person sometime in the future, she says the co-op’s “Save with Solar” meetings over Zoom have been an effective way to educate people across the country about solar power and build their membership.

“We have been doing ‘Save with Solar’ monthly over Zoom and they have been pretty successful. I could see us sticking with using online delivery even as things normalize,” Ford says.

“People have lots of questions about how grid-tied solar works, how much does it cost to set up, how does it perform up here in the north, and much more,” says solar consultant Greg Dueck.

“So we use these solar webinars to answer these and many other questions.”

The next Save with Solar meeting on Zoom is coming up March 10 at 7 p.m. and is free to attend with pre-registration.

Anyone interested in attending the next meeting or buying a membership in the co-op can find more information on the coop’s website,

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