Facilities – Solar Power
In this decision, the AUC approved the applications from Aura Power Renewables Ltd. (“Aura Power”) to construct and operate a 22.5-megawatt (“MW”) solar power plant, designated as the Killarney Lake Solar Project, located in the Municipal District of Wainright No. 61, and to connect the Project to FortisAlberta Inc.’s 25-kilovolt distribution system (the ”Project”).
The Project would consist of approximately 48,152 solar photovoltaic modules on a single-axis tracking system, including up to six inverters rated at up to 1,500 volts each. The Project would include internal access roads, cabling, switchgear, transformers and other electrical-related equipment and would be located on 160 acres of private agriculture land.
Aura Power’s application included a participant involvement program, a noise impact assessment and a solar glare assessment that raised no issues. The application also included a Historical Resources Act approval, a renewable energy referral report issued by Alberta Environment and Parks Wildlife Management and an environmental evaluation report. These reports concluded that the Project would cause a low risk to wildlife and wildlife habitat and that any potential adverse effect of the Project can be effectively mitigated.
Following information requests from the AUC, Aura Power confirmed that it would implement a site-specific seeding and vegetation control plan prior to construction and during the operation of the Project to reduce overgrowth and, ultimately, the risk related to fire. It also confirmed that it would develop a site-specific emergency response plan in collaboration with local fire and emergency medical services staff, which would be available three months prior to construction. Further, in response to the information requests, Aura Power confirmed that the operator of the Project would periodically evaluate decommissioning costs and compare that value to the salvage value of the facility. If it is determined that the decommissioning costs exceed the salvage value, the operator will arrange to have funds held in escrow to cover the difference.
The AUC was satisfied that the application met the applicable information requirements and that a participant involvement program was conducted in accordance with Rule 007.
As Aura Power had not finalized the selection of equipment for the Project, the AUC imposed the following as a condition of approval:
a) Once Aura has made its final selection of equipment for the Project, it must file a letter with the AUC that identifies the make, model, and quantity of the equipment and, if the equipment layout has changed, provide an updated site plan. This letter must also confirm that the finalized design of the Project will not increase the land, noise, glare or environmental impacts beyond the levels approved in this decision. This letter is to be filed no later than one month before construction is scheduled to begin.
The AUC was satisfied by the noise impact assessment submitted by Aura Power. Aura Power also submitted a solar glare assessment conducted by Green Cat Renewables Canada Corporation (“Green Cat”). In the solar glare assessment, a viewing angle of plus/minus 15 degrees was applied to model the transportation routes. In response to an information request by the AUC, a more conservative viewing angle of plus/minus 25 degrees was applied. In this scenario, the Project was predicted to result in up to 2,773 minutes of yellow solar glare per year at Township Road 420/415A for a scenario that assumed a backtracking angle of five degrees. In addition, Green Cat predicted that Township Road 420/415A would experience zero solar glare from the Project for all other modeled scenarios, and other glare receptors would experience zero solar glare from the Project for all the scenarios.
The AUC accepted Green Cat’s predictions for the Project solar glare and its explanation that the actual solar glare expected along Township Road 420/415A would be less than the predicted duration as vehicle operators travel past the Project. The AUC noted that Green Cat’s prediction results for the Project solar glare were premised on the use of an anti-reflective coating applied to the Project solar panels and were dependent on the backtracking angles of the Project solar panels.
The AUC noted that there are no public safety standards or regulations associated with solar glare that apply to the Project. The AUC expects that Aura Power will address any glare issues associated with the Project in a timely manner. In addition to the condition noted above, the AUC imposed the following conditions of approval:
b) Aura shall use anti-reflective coating on the Project solar panels.
c) Aura shall provide an update to the AUC regarding the final backtracking design specifying the final backtracking angle(s) that the Project solar panels will use during backtracking periods, and confirm that the final backtracking design will not result in increases to the solar glare impacts beyond those predicted in the solar glare assessment. This update may be part of the letter confirming the final Project design. The update is to be filed no later than one month before construction is scheduled to begin.
d) Aura shall file a report detailing any complaints or concerns it receives or is made aware of regarding solar glare from the Project during its first year of operation, as well as Aura’s response to the complaints or concerns. Aura shall file this report no later than 13 months after the Project becomes operational.
Further, as Aura Power had not finalized its conservation and reclamation plan and monitoring program for the Project, the AUC, as a condition for approval, required that Aura Power submit a copy of its finalized conservation and reclamation plan and monitoring program at least 60 days prior to the start of construction.
Finally, as the Project is a solar Project, it is subject to Rule 033: Post-approval Monitoring Requirements for Wind and Solar Power Plants, the AUC imposed, as a condition of approval, that Aura Power submits an annual post-construction monitoring survey report to Alberta Environment and Parks (“AEP”) and the AUC within 13 months of the Project becoming operational, and on or before the same date every subsequent year for which AEP requires surveys.