EPCOR energizes solar farm at Edmonton River Valley Water Treatment Plant – Edmonton


A solar farm in Edmonton’s River Valley has officially been powered up.

With 30,350 solar panels, the kīsikāw pīsim solar farm in southwest Edmonton was officially powered up by EPCOR on Tuesday morning.

The 51-acre farm will supply the EL Smith water treatment plant with approximately 50% of the electricity it needs to produce clean water. EPCOR says it is the largest municipal solar farm in Canada with a battery energy storage system and a smart grid.

“It’s really exciting for us,” said Stuart Lee, President and CEP of EPCOR.

“What’s really unique about this project is the fact that you’re producing clean water with clean energy.”

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Trina Manning, senior manager of sustainability at EPCOR, said the electricity from the solar panels will go directly to the water treatment plan to produce drinking water for Edmonton and 65 regions around the city. About 65% of the water in the whole region comes from this plant, she explained.

Power from solar panels can also go to the battery for storage to use when they can’t generate electricity from the sun, Manning explained.

“In other cases, when we produce more electricity than the treatment plant needs, that electricity can then be fed into the grid,” she said. “Previously, we received all the electricity directly from the grid for the treatment plant.

“Reducing greenhouse gases will benefit the whole river valley, this region.”

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Lee said the total cost of the project is still being finalized, but added that about $10 million came from federal grants. Given the recent rise in energy prices, Lee said the savings from this project will be “significant”.

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“The expected life of this project is 25 to 30 years and within that time it will pay for itself,” he said.

The farm is on the traditional territory of the Enoch Cree Nation. The name kīsikāw pīsim means day sun. The name was decided at a traditional Aboriginal naming ceremony in January.

The farm itself has not been without controversy. At first, the Enoch Cree Nation was opposed to the farm, but Chief Billy Morin told Global News earlier this year that conversations with EPCOR and the City of Edmonton had changed their minds.

Others, including wilderness groups, have raised concerns about the ecological impact of the development.

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After concerns were raised, the city council asked EPCOR to do more community consultation and reassess whether the project should go to that specific location.

“Throughout the community engagement process, we received many comments associated with concerns,” Lee said. “A lot of that was then incorporated into the design of the facility, including further setbacks from the river, looking at how we could actually ensure that different wildlife could move through the corridor of the river.

“I think this whole process has made this project a better project and we’re very proud of the environmental process we went through to ensure this was designed and built correctly.”

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Sipiwiyiniwak councilor Sarah Hamilton said the project was finally approved by council in a 7-6 vote.

“The question at the time was: is this type of river valley development considered essential? Because it says in the river valley regulations that projects must be deemed essential,” she said.

“There has been a lot of work to allay fears and I haven’t heard much from residents since the project was approved.

“It’s healthy for our democracy, it’s healthy for our city to have these conversations. I think because of the lengthy regulatory process, I think the city got the best product out of it.

“As we have seen today, there is a much stronger relationship with the Enoch Cree Nation. I think this sets the bar very high for future projects that may be pursued in the river valley.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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