Solar Power Plant – Facilities
In this decision, the AUC approved the applications from Shell Canada Limited (“Shell”) to construct and operate a 4.6-megawatt (“MW”) solar power plant at the Scotford industrial complex in the Fort Saskatchewan area and to amend the Scotford industrial system designation (“ISD”) to include the power plant.
Is Approval of the Solar Power Plant in the Public Interest?
The proposed power plant would be located in the Alberta Industrial Heartland, where the Northeast Capital Industrial Association manages noise from energy-related facilities through its Regional Noise Management Plan. The AUC required that new facilities should result in no net increase above baseline case sound levels at nearby receptors. Based on the noise impact assessment submitted by Shell, the AUC concluded that the power plant is expected to comply with this noise requirement.
The solar glare assessment conducted by Solas Energy Consultants for Shell identified that Range Road 214 is expected to receive up to 4,956 minutes of yellow-grade glare per year. Shell submitted that Range Road 214 is a dirt road that is not heavily travelled. The AUC noted that there were no public safety standards or regulations associated with solar glare at the time of this proceeding that apply to the power plant. The AUC accepted the submitted assessment and did not consider adverse glare impact to be likely. The AUC noted its expectation that any glare issue caused by the power plant would be addressed in a timely manner. Accordingly, the AUC imposed the following conditions of approval:
(a) Shell shall apply anti-reflective coating to the project solar panels.
(b) Shell 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 Shell’s response to the concerns and complaints. Shell shall file this report no later than 13 months after the project becomes operational.
The AUC recognized that renewable energy operations must obtain a reclamation certificate at the power plant’s end of life and expects Shell to comply with all applicable statutory reclamation obligations. The AUC found that adverse environmental impacts were unlikely.
The AUC determined that approval of the power plant is in the public interest regarding its social, economic, and other effects, including its effect on the environment.
Would the Scotford Industrial System Continue to Meet the Requirements for Designated Industrial Systems with the Inclusion of the Solar Power Plant?
The Scotford industrial complex has been designated as an industrial system since 1999. As a result, the AUC considered that the principles and criteria set out in Section 4 of the Hydro and Electric Energy Act (“HEEA“) would have been assessed when the designation was initially applied for. As such, it was not necessary for the AUC to make findings on the applicability of principles and criteria to aspects of the industrial system that were originally considered in the initial ISD application and that are not materially altered by the proposed amendment.
AltaLink Management Ltd. (“AML”) was concerned that the proposed solar power plant may not fit within the criteria for an ISD set out in Section 4 of the HEEA. However, the AUC found that AML did not have standing in this proceeding and placed little or no weight on the submissions of AML.
The AUC determined that the inclusion of the solar power plant into the industrial system constitutes a minor alteration to the industrial system. The solar power plant is expected to supply 0.4 per cent of the industrial complex’s electricity requirements and would not alter the industrial system’s status as a net-importer.
The AUC determined that the principles and criteria of Section 4 of the HEEA would continue to be met. Accordingly, the AUC found that approving the application to amend the Scotford ISD is in the public interest and that the industrial system, given the minor nature of the amendment, continues to meet the principles and criteria of Section 4 of the HEEA.
The AUC approved the power plant application under Section 11 of the HEEA. It further approved the ISD amendment application under Section 4 of the HEEA and sections 2(1)(d) and 117 of the Electric Utilities Act.