By Anna Smith
While there are still concerns regarding a potential upcoming solar project for Cypress County, Council made the motion to withdraw their Request for Review following a delegation at the October 31 Council Meeting.
Initially, on September 6, the County filed a Request for Review of Decision to the Alberta Utilities Commission following concerns regarding lack of consultation. A decision on the notice of proceeding has been delayed allowing the County to review the context of the project and to allow opportunity for the developer to address the County’s questions and concerns, it was stated in the County agenda package.
The companies in question, a collaboration between Greencells Indygen and Solas Energy, met with the County in order to discuss the project and address concerns via video call during the Halloween County Council meeting. Paula McGarrigle from Solas Energy and David Ashton with Greencells Indygen were present for the meeting.
The Estuary Solar Project itself is on private land owned by the Hutterite Brethren of Estuary Corp., near McNeill, roughly 110 kilometers north of Dunmore.
A major concern was a lack of communication with the County, said McGarrigle, with them only becoming aware of the project in August of this year. This was identified as a series of “mishaps and IT issues,” resulting in a lack of received inquiries prior to the AUC approval on the project.
Another significant concern was raised in regards to wildfire, weeds, and environmental concerns. Greencells Indygen has been in meetings with the County in regards to wildfire risk and emergency response plans, noting that due to the geographical area, it will likely require some collaboration with other energy-related facilities, as the distance from any manner of emergency response is significant.
During the meeting, Councillor Shane Hok noted with some alarm the presence of wild oats on a list of native plants that would be used on areas where vegetation has been accidentally moved or damaged.
“Wild oats is the most serious grassy weed in the Prairie provinces. Losses can be as high as $500 million annually across the Prairie provinces and wild oats cause yield losses, dockage losses, cleaning costs and lower grade and quality,” said Hok, questioning why species like this would be considered.
McGarrigle assured that wild oats would be removed from the list, and encouraged the County to provide a list of what would be acceptable reseeding options.
Further concerns included the reclamation process at the end of the project’s life, as well as road use. Ultimately, the request was withdrawn, though there was further expressed concern after the meeting in regards to the level of consultation. The Municipal Planning Commission will be in further discussion on the project, and will have the opportunity to attach appropriate conditions. It was noted that now that contact has been made, the companies have been good to deal with.