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ATCO Power (2010) Ltd. Empress Solar Power Plant Amendment, AUC Decision 27572-D01-2022

Link to Decision Summarized

Solar – Facilities

Application

ATCO Power (2010) Ltd (“ATCO Power”) has approval to construct and operate a power plant, which contains up to 115,492 bi-facial solar photovoltaic panels mounted on a single-axis tracking system, and nine inverter-transformer units, with a total generating capability of 39 megawatts. Construction of the power plant was to be completed by January 31, 2023.

ATCO Power filed an application with the AUC for approval of amendments to the power plant and a time extension to complete construction. The proposed amendments include reducing the number of photovoltaic modules to approximately 89,000 VSUN540-144BMH-DG, each rated at 540 watts, and increasing the number of inverter-transformer units to 12. The total generating capability of the power plant is unchanged. ATCO Power requested a new construction completion date of December 31, 2023, to facilitate the amendments.

Decision

The AUC approved the application for amendments to the previously approved plant and a time extension to complete construction to January 31, 2024, under s. 17 of the Alberta Utilities Commission Act and ss. 11 and 19 of the Hydro and Electric Energy Act.

Applicable Legislation

AUC Rule 007: Applications for Power Plants, Substations, Transmission Lines, Industrial System Designations, Hydro Developments and Gas Utility Pipelines.

Wildlife Directive for Alberta Wind Energy Projects.

AUC Rule 033: Post-approval Monitoring Requirements for Wind and Solar Power Plant

Hydro and Electric Energy Act, RSA 2000, c H-16 – ss. 11 and 19.

Alberta Utilities Commission Act, SA 2007, c A-37.2 – s. 17.

Pertinent Issues

A new solar glare assessment was submitted because the previously submitted solar glare predictions were no longer applicable due to the design change. The AUC found that glare was not expected to be an issue and that there were sufficient mitigation measures in place, in the event that glare on the roads becomes an issue. The AUC imposed the following conditions of approval in respect of solar glare: (1) ATCO Power shall file a report with the AUC detailing any complaints or concerns it receives or is made aware of regarding solar glare; (2) anti-reflective coating shall be utilized on the solar panels.

The power plant initially did not have internal gravel roads so that movement of animals would not be restricted. ATCO Power submitted this was not practical because gravel roads are required to support vehicles that will deliver and install equipment during construction, and for emergency response during operation. ATCO Power outlined proposed mitigation measures. The AUC found that the amendments to the power plant will not result in significant incremental impacts on the environment or wildlife. The AUC imposed as a condition of approval that ATCO Power submits an annual post-construction monitoring report to Alberta Environment and Parks and the AUC after the commencement of operations.

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