Facilities – Solar
In this decision, the Alberta Utilities Commission (“AUC”) approved the application from Gleichen Solar Project Inc. (“Gleichen”) to construct and operate a 13.3-megawatt solar power plant, designated as the Gleichen Solar Project (the “Power Plant”), and to connect the Power Plant to the FortisAlberta Inc. electric distribution system.
The Power Plant will consist of photovoltaic modules and seven inverter or transformer stations with an installed capability of 13.3 megawatts (“MW”) and will be located on 71 acres of private, freehold land near Gleichen in Wheatland County.
The application included a participant involvement program detailing consultation and notification of stakeholders. It also included a renewable energy project submission filed with Alberta Environment and Parks (“AEP”), an AEP renewable energy referral report, an environmental evaluation, a conceptual conservation and reclamation plan, a solar glare assessment and a noise impact assessment. Further, Gleichen submitted a Historical Resources Act approval, a site-specific emergency report plan for the project’s construction and operation and confirmation that FortisAlberta Inc. is prepared to interconnect the Power Plant to its distribution system.
AUC Discussion and Findings
The AUC determined that the project met all requirements for a connection order and was satisfied by FortisAlberta Inc.’s confirmation to allow the interconnection.
The AUC determined that the application and the information submitted meet the requirements of Rule 007: Applications for Power Plants, Substations, Transmission Lines, Industrial System Designations and Hydro Developments and Rule 012: Noise Control. The reports and information submitted with the application did not raise any concerns.
In accordance with Rule 033: Post-approval Monitoring Requirements for Wind and Solar Power Plants, the AUC required as a condition of approval that Gleichen submits an annual post-construction monitoring survey report to AEP and the AUC within 13 months of the project becoming operational, and on or before the same date every following year for which AEP requires surveys according to subsection 3(3) of Rule 033.
The solar glare assessment indicated that the solar panels would be mounted on a racking system with a fixed-tilt angle of 30 degrees and assumed that the project solar panels would use an anti-reflective coating. To ensure that the project does not create hazardous glare conditions for nearby dwellings or transportation routes as indicated in the glare assessment, the AUC required as a condition of approval that Gleichen shall use an anti-reflective coating on the project solar panels.
Further, regarding glare, the AUC imposed as a condition of approval that Gleichen shall file a report with the AUC detailing any complaints or concerns it receives or is made aware of regarding solar glare from the project during the first year of operation. The report must also include the response to the complaints or concerns no later than 13 months after the project becomes operational.
The noise impact assessment predicted compliance with Rule 012: Noise Control. The AUC found it reasonable to implement the recommended acoustic sound barriers at one receptor if required following a post-construction sound level survey. Accordingly, to ensure the project remains compliant with Rule 012, the AUC imposed as a condition of approval that Gleichen conducts a post-construction comprehensive sound level (“CSL”) survey at Receptor R03. Gleichen shall file a report summarizing the results of the CSL survey no later than 60 days after the project commences operations. If the post-construction CSL survey demonstrates that the project is not compliant with Rule 012 at Receptor R03, Gleichen shall immediately cease nighttime operation until noise barriers or other mitigation measures are enough to achieve compliance with Rule 012. In this case, Gleichen shall conduct another CSL survey and file a report with the AUC.
Finally, the AUC required that Gleichen files a final project update to the AUC to confirm that the project has stayed within the final project update specified allowances for solar power plants once it has finalized its equipment selection and project layout.
The AUC found approval of the application to be in the public interest, as required by Section 17 of the Alberta Utilities Commission Act. Pursuant to sections 11 and 18 of the Hydro and Electric Energy Act, the AUC approved the applications for permission to construct and operate the Power Plant and interconnect to FortisAlberta Inc.’s electric distribution system.