Summerlanders will soon have the opportunity to weigh in on where the community’s new solar power plant should go.
Last March, the District of Summerland was awarded a $6-million grant from the federal gas tax fund to build a one-megawatt solar array, with two megawatts of battery storage.
Chief Administrative Officer Linda Tynan said they’ve been doing some further studies that were required regarding the feasibility of the battery storage component of the project.
“The next step, the real big step, is nailing down that location. Once that happens things will probably start moving very quickly,” said Tynan.
“It’ll come probably a council within the next month.”
Once the council has given the go-ahead, Tynan explained, they will go out to the community for public input on possible locations.
“The whole project, even now, is on schedule as far as how much time it’s taken to do the background work,” she said. “There are other battery storage projects but what we’re trying to do and how we’re doing it is quite innovative.”
As far as complexity, Tynan said the solar project is similar to others the district has embarked on, like the $6-million Garnet Valley Road water separation and road project.
What makes the solar project stand out is the innovative way the battery storage is integrated into the project.
“There’s still not that many. In some of the U.S. cities, there are some comparisons of projects similar to this but none in Canada,” said Tynan, adding that it opens up other opportunities.
“That’s why everything that we learn about our electrical system and interconnections and getting everything very right, right from the start, is a good thing for the future for other alternative energy projects which may come our way,” said Tynan.
“When you get funding like we did, especially 100 per cent funding like this, we can make sure that we have the resources to do it in a complete way without missing any corners.”
The extent of the project is far-reaching, Tynan said.
“It directly affects every one of us who works here,” said Tynan. “We’ve got our hands and fingers on it; it’s not just it’s not just a consultant that we were at arm’s length with, working on the project.”
“It’s a big undertaking for small organizations and everybody, almost every department is involved in some way.”
This is a first-of-its-kind project, something that former mayor, Peter Waterman said Summerland has a long history of: 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.
The Summerland solar array may become a showcase project other communities can look to, but downstream benefits include strengthening its existing utility resource, enhancing the local economy and creating jobs while enhancing energy security.
More information about Summerland’s integrated solar project is available online at www.summerland.ca/solar.