Solar Power – Facilities
In this decision, the AUC approved an application from SWITCH Power Corporation (“SWITCH”) and its general partner, 2079816 Alberta Ltd., to construct and operate the 22-megawatt Joffre Solar Project Phase 1 and the 25-megawatt Joffre Solar Project Phase 2 (the “Projects”). The AUC also approved the connection of the power plants to the FortisAlberta Inc. distribution system. The Projects will be constructed on 290 acres of privately owned land in Lacombe County, Alberta.
SWITCH’s application included a participant involvement program and a noise impact assessment that raised no issues. The solar glare assessment indicated that the Projects pose a low potential for hazardous glare conditions along the roads and dwellings assessed. The application also included a Historical Resources Act approval, a renewable energy referral report issued by Alberta Environment and Parks Fish and Wildlife Stewardship (“AEP”) and a renewable energy project submission report. These reports concluded that the Projects would cause a low risk to wildlife and wildlife habitat and that any potential adverse effect of the Projects can be effectively mitigated.
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: Applications for Power Plants, Substations, Transmission Lines, Industrial System Designations, Hydro Developments and Gas Utility Pipelines.
SWITCH had not finalized the selection of equipment for the Projects, and the AUC imposed the following as a condition of approval:
(a) Once SWITCH has made its final selection of equipment for the Projects, 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 solar glare assessment predicted that four dwellings near the Projects, Township Road 384, and the intersection of Township Road 384 and Range Road 260 will experience up to 10,225 minutes of yellow glare from the Projects.
The solar glare assessment noted that barriers such as trees, shrubs and buildings that exist between the Projects and the dwellings would significantly reduce or eliminate glare impacts on the dwellings. If further mitigation is required, additional vegetative screening could be planted. Green Cat Renewables Inc. conducted the assessment and added that Township Road 384 is not expected to experience high traffic volumes, and as such, the glare on the road and at the intersection is unlikely to cause adverse effects. It concluded that, overall, the Projects pose a low potential for hazardous glare conditions along the road routes and dwellings assessed.
The AUC noted its expectation that SWITCH 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) SWITCH shall use an anti-reflective coating on the solar panels of the Projects, as indicated in the solar glare assessment.
(c) SWITCH shall file a report detailing any complaints or concerns it receives or is made aware of regarding solar glare from the Projects during its first year of operation, as well as SWITCH’s response to the complaints or concerns. SWITCH shall file this report no later than 13 months after the project becomes operational.
The AUC, relying on the finding of the renewable energy referral report and the renewable energy project submission report and notes, the fact that the Projects would be located entirely on previously disturbed land and that the location aligns with the Wildlife Directive for Alberta Solar Projects, determined that the potential environmental effects of the project are limited and can be reasonably mitigated to an acceptable level. SWITCH is expected to adhere to and implement all mitigation measures included in those reports.
As it had not yet been submitted, the AUC required that SWITCH file a stand-alone, project-specific environmental protection plan and the Project’s initial renewable energy operations conservation and reclamation plan, no later than one month before construction is scheduled to begin.
Finally, as required by Rule 033: Post-approval Monitoring Requirements for Wind and Solar Power Plants, the AUC imposed, as a condition of approval, that SWITCH 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.
The AUC considered the applications to be in the public interest in accordance with Section 17 of the Alberta Utilities Commission Act and approved the applications pursuant to Sections 11 and 18 of the Hydro and Electric Energy Act.