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East Strathmore Solar Project Inc. East Strathmore Solar Power Plant Amendments and Community Generation Designation, AUC Decision 26657-D01-2021

Link to Decision Summarized

Community Generating Unit – Solar Power

In this decision, the AUC approved the application from East Strathmore Solar Project Inc. (“ESSPI”) for amendments to the East Strathmore Solar Power Plant (the “Power Plant”). The AUC also designated the Power Plant as a community generating unit.

Amendments

ESSPI applied to vary the design of the Power Plant by using an alternative inverter model, which it anticipated would provide additional technical and commercial benefits. Further, instead of the originally approved 59,000 solar panels, the Power Plant would now consist of approximately 56,000 solar panels.

Alberta Environment and Parks (“AEP”) confirmed that an amendment application was not required in this case. The amendments would not increase the environmental effects of assessment, and, accordingly, an update to the environmental effects assessment was not required. The noise impact assessment (“NIA”) for the project was updated to provide for the minimal changes to sound levels resulting from the amendments. The changes would not affect the Power Plant’s compliance with Rule 012: Noise Control.

The finalized design of the power plant would not materially increase the land, noise, glare, or environmental impacts beyond those previously approved. ESSPI further confirmed that the generating capability of the Power Plant would remain the same.

Community Generating Unit Designation

ESSPI requested that the Power Plant be qualified as a community generating unit. In support of the request, ESSPI submitted a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) executed with Wheatland County (the “County”), under which ESSPI committed to creating a community benefit fund that would be used to support community initiatives and events within the County.

The MOU stated that EESPI would make annual contributions of $20,000 towards the community benefit fund for 10 years. Fifty per cent of the annual funding would be allocated towards environmental education initiatives and a community fee assistance program to improve access to recreation, arts, and cultural programs. The remaining funding would be distributed through an application process to other environmental enhancement, social welfare, and arts and culture programs.

FortisAlberta Inc. confirmed that it had qualified the project as a small-scale generating unit under the Small Scale Generation Regulation. FortisAlberta Inc. stated that it would be responsible for the metering costs of the project.

AUC Findings

The AUC found that approval of the amendments was in the public interest having regard to the social, economic, and other effects of the project, including its effect on the environment.

Regarding the application for a designation as a community generating unit, the AUC found that ESSPI filed its application in the form established by the AUC and included an MOU with Wheatland County as part of its application. The AUC was satisfied that the MOU is intended to be a binding contract, as required in situations where the small-scale generating unit is not wholly owned by an eligible community group.

The AUC determined that the application from ESSPI satisfied the requirements set out in the Small Scale Generating Regulation. The AUC noted that the estimated amount of $30,000 provided by ESSPI as the cost incurred for the project meter includes installation fees, which are not eligible for compensation under Subsection 5(2)(a) of the Small Scale Generation Regulation. After subtracting the costs to install and commission the metering system, the AUC determined that the cost to purchase the meter would be $20,000.

The AUC was satisfied that as the distribution owner, FortisAlberta Inc. is entitled to recover the costs incurred to purchase the meter for the project ($20,000), according to Subsection 5(2)(a) of the Small Scale Generation Regulation.

The AUC approved the applications filed by ESSPI.

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