AUC accepting submissions for Duchess Solar Project

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SANDRA M STANWAY
Brooks Bulletin

The Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) will accept comments on Engie’s 90 megawatt solar plant southwest of Duchess parallel to highways 36 and 544 and its substation with a 138 kV step-up transformer at Rock Lake.
Rob Maitland, business development director for Engie Development Canada, said anyone who has had concerns or issues were heard during Engie’s stakeholder meeting in August 2017, so he is not expecting a hearing to be called.
“We tried to address those to the best of our abilities. We’re hoping people are satisfied with the outcome of the consultation but I guess we will see by Feb. 22,” he said.
Concerns heard included visual impact, setbacks of the panels to property lines and screening options.
Maitland said solar panels at the south end of the project will be 161 meters from the closest property line and the west side will be 77.5m.
“In the space we’re putting in visual screens so the solar panels won’t be visible at all from the neighbouring residences. That will include a berm and some vegetation,” he said.
The southern earth berm will 2.8 meters high and will be grassed and treed while the berm in the west will be one meter high with a two meter high visual screening fence.
“They haven’t provided any further comment on it. We hope they’re satisfied but they still have the opportunity to provide comment directly to the AUC.”
Maitland said the company is making every attempt to address any of the issues they received.
“We’ve answered all the questions. We’ve committed right from the start to have this visual screening so that there will be no visual impact to the neighbouring landowners.”
The applications resulted in 10 information requests from the AUC with answers to have been submitted by Feb. 8.
Requests included a solar glare hazard analysis report, detail of the substation and its layout, mitigation and prevention of spreading clubroot, additional information on the post construction and end-of-life revegetation, reclamation and weed management as well as bird mortality, wildlife monitoring and mitigation plans.
As for end of life reclamation and decommissioning, Maitland said they will be following the conservation and reclamation directive for renewable energy operations which would eventually lead to a reclamation certificate.
The directive does not require security to be posted for decommissioning, however, the project is located entirely on private land and this issue has been addressed through the land lease with the landowner.
As part of the consideration of the application, the AUC will accept written submissions by Feb. 22 by calling 310-4AUC or info@auc.ab.ca.
If there are no submissions AUC will make their decision without further notice.