Summerland has received conditional approval for $6 million in federal funding to build a one-megawatt solar array to provide power to the community. (File photo)

Summerland planning solar project to power community

$Six million grant awarded for integrated solar project

Summerland is taking a big step into the future and making plans to generate a portion of the electricity in the community.

The district received conditional approval for up to $6 million in funding from the Federal Gas Tax Fund to support the development of a one-megawatt solar array with two megawatts of battery storage to be located within municipal boundaries.

“Summerland is incredibly proud to be selected to receive this funding in support of our integrated solar project,” said Mayor Peter Waterman. “Our community has indicated an immense amount of support for our electrical utility to begin generating power locally from renewable sources, and for us to take our energy future into our own hands.

“The economic opportunities this project will provide to Summerland cannot be understated, and we look forward engaging our residents in the process so their vision for this project can be fully realized.”

Related: Municipality considering solar power

Speaking at a press conference, Waterman told about Summerland having a long history of being first: the first community in the Okanagan to enjoy electricity and the first to have telephone service, in 1907. Summerland is only one of five municipalities in B.C. to have its own electrical utility.

That, he said, has helped Summerland ensure the community’s energy future remains in the control of our residents and is operated strictly for their benefit.

There are a number of benefits to adding the solar array and storage to Summerland’s electrical utility systems beyond being a showcase of clean power technology that other communities can look too.

By generating solar energy locally, Summerland will strengthen its existing utility resource, enhance the local economy and create jobs, increase energy security while supporting innovation and, ideally, attracting new residents and visitors.

The project will form the basis for an integrated, long-term approach to sustainable energy management for the community, which will provide ongoing opportunities for job creation, community involvement, and partnerships with local businesses, schools, and not-for-profit groups.

The $6 million from the gas tax fund depends on completing a feasibility study and securing all the funding necessary to complete the project by March 2019. Summerland already received a $100,000 grant from the B.C. Rural Dividend Program for the initial phases of developing and planning the project, along with community consultation.

The additional funding would support the engineering, procurement, and construction of the projects, which are estimated to cost $6,980,000 including $1.4 million for upgrades to Summerland’s existing electrical system. The district will contribute the funds required beyond the grant from its electrical utility capital reserve fund.

More information about Summerland’s integrated solar project is available online at www.summerland.ca/solar.

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