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 6.0-megawatt Youngstown Solar Power Plant (the “Power Plant”) and to connect the Power Plant to the ATCO Electric Ltd. distribution system (the “Project”). The Project will be constructed on 40 acres of privately owned land between Scotfield and Cereal, Alberta.
SWITCH’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 Fish and Wildlife Stewardship (“AEP”) 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 can be effectively mitigated.
The AUC was satisfied that the application met the applicable information requirements and that a participant involvement program met the requirements of Rule 007: Applications for Power Plants, Substations, Transmission Lines, Industrial System Designations, Hydro Developments and Gas Utility Pipelines.
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:
(a) SWITCH shall use an anti-reflective coating on the Project solar panels, as indicated in the solar glare assessment.
(b) SWITCH 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 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 noting as well that the Project is sited entirely on previously disturbed land and the siting of the project 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.
SWITCH had not finalized the selection of equipment for the Project, and the AUC imposed the following as a condition of approval:
(c) Once SWITCH 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.
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 SWITCH submits an annual post-construction monitoring survey report to 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.