Drumheller Solar and Battery Project – Community Generation
The proposed Drumheller Solar and Battery Storage Project is a 13.5 MWac ground mounted solar farm, combined with a battery energy storage system which has an expected capacity of 6 MW/12MWh.
The project is located on approximately 60 acres of land near the Town of Drumheller, which is owned by the Town and that currently does not earn them any income. Siting of the project in this location will generate additional revenues for the local community, while not restricting future development plans of the Town.
Electricity generated by the development will be exported directly to the existing ATCO Electric 25kV network. Once operational, the project is expected to generate enough power to meet the demand of approximately 3,000 homes per year (the 2016 census indicated that Drumheller has a total 3006 homes).
During operation the project will export electricity generated by the solar array to the local grid network and will also charge the battery energy storage system. The battery will be charged by the solar farm at times of low demand and will be discharged to the grid at peak times, offsetting peak loads and easing stress on the wider electrical system. In its current configuration the project will never export more than 13.5 MWac to the grid. The battery energy system will only be charged by the solar farm and not directly from the grid network.
The target operational date for the project is Winter of 2021, with construction beginning in the summer. However, final development timescales will be subject to various factors, including power market drivers. The total development costs for the project are expected to be approximately $25 million.
The project is being supported by Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) through their Biotechnology, Electricity, and Sustainable Transportation (BEST) Challenge, to include a battery storage capability, which if built will make the project one of the first such “hybrid” projects to connect to the grid in Alberta. ERA is an Alberta Government organization mandated to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and grow Alberta’s economy by accelerating the development and adoption of innovative technology solutions. Since 2009, ERA has invested over $500 million into more than 160 projects across Alberta, which will reduce GHG emissions by nearly 43 million tonnes by 2030 and help the Province achieve its GHG reduction goals.
Constraints, Impacts and Concerns
The Drumheller Solar and Battery Storage Project has been developed with consideration of both local stakeholders and the environment. Details of key considerations are summarized below:
Noise – A Noise Impact Assessment has been conducted in-line with the requirements of AUC Rule 012 Noise Control. Findings of the assessment indicate that the project is in compliance with noise limits set by the guidelines at all surrounding noise receptors.
Glint and Glare – A Glint and Glare assessment has been conducted to evaluate the impact on residents and users of Highway 10. The assessment has found that neighbouring dwellings will be shielded from any potential impacts by local vegetation cover (shrubs and trees), Highway 10 may experience some low-level impacts from glare, for a very short stretch of the road, between mid-March and September at around approximately 6:30am to 7:30am. The glare experienced would be similar to that reflected from a pond or small body of water.
Environmental Evaluation – Environmental assessments have been conducted at the proposed site area throughout 2019. Findings indicate that migratory birds are of low concern to the project, and that there are no wetlands present on site. A bald eagle nest is located to the South West of the project, and the project has developed a mitigation plan to avoid disturbance to this nest, which has been approved by Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP). The plan includes a year-round 100m setback from the nest; a commitment to undertake monitoring of behavior during any periods of construction that coincide with the nesting period; and post construction surveys for the first 3 years after completion of construction.
Setback from 3rd Party Infrastructure – The project will adhere to all setbacks from roads, property lines, and right-of-way required by the Town of Drumheller and other stakeholders where applicable. In addition, prior to construction, detailed grading and drainage plans will be prepared to ensure that the solar plant will have no adverse effects on adjacent land usage.
Maintenance and Weeds – Post construction the site will be seeded and returned to vegetation. Throughout operation of the solar array, routine maintenance will include the general upkeep of the grounds. As part of this, grass will be cut-back and weeds (if any) controlled. Any vegetation that is higher than the bottom edge of the panels can impact upon generation, thus routine maintenance is in the project’s interest.
Decommissioning and Reinstatement – Once the project reaches the end of operational life, it will be the responsibility of the developer (Drumheller Solar Corporation) to return the site to its original condition. This will include the removal of all piles, mounting frames/racks, solar panels and battery energy storage containers. Details of requirements are outlined in the AEPs Conservation and Reclamation Directive for Renewable Energy Operators, to which the project must be compliant. Drumheller Solar Corporation is commited, where possible, to recycling project components at the end of the project life: solar modules are comprised of components including glass, plastic, metals and silicon a high percentage of which have the potential to be recycled; lithim ion batteries contain various high value materials up to 80% of which can be recycled at this time.
Emergency Response Planning – Drumheller Solar Corporation is committed to developing and implementing an Emergency Response Plan prior to the commencement of project construction. The project is also in discussions with the local fire department with regards to organizing training for local fire-fighters on tackling fires in the unlikely event they occur in and around solar and energy storage facilities.
Visual Impact – Feedback received from a stakeholder during the open house indicated a preference for the battery energy storage containers to be painted a colour that fits with the local scenery. Drumheller Solar Corporation has noted this feedback and will endeavour to make the containers blend into the natural environment better than the green containers displayed on the project visualziations.
Security – For security purposes, the development will be surrounded by a security fence and will have CCTV installed.
Technology and Components
The solar array will be comprised of various key components, including inverter/transformer stations, solar modules, racking and piles. Piles are either driven, or screwed into the ground at regular interval, and are then connected to a racking structure that is utilized to support modules in the array. Solar modules are attached to the racking systems and then connected electrically in a series of ‘strings’, the strings will be merged in combiner boxes, which will then connect into inverter/transformer units. These inverter units convert the electricity from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). The project will be connected to the battery energy storage system and the local grid network through switchgear which will protect electrical equipment.
The battery energy storage system will be connected to the solar array and local grid network through the switchgear described above, and rectifier/transformer stations will be utilized to change the electricity from alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC) to allow the batteries to charge. Battery charging will be managed by a charge controller that will ensure that battery units are not over charged. Batteries will be housed in units very similar to sea-can containers and will be placed on a concrete foundation. Each unit will be approximately of 3m high, 3m wide and 12m long.
There are a number of community benefits resulting from this project for the Town of Drumheller and local community:
Rental Income – Approximately 35 years of secure, inflation adjusted income of $400/acre/year. Based on the current design this represents approximately $24,000/year to the town from land rent.
Community Benefit Fund – An annual contribution of $1,000 per megawatt of installed solar capacity will be made to a community endowment fund. Subject to the final design and installed capacity this contribution could be up to $17,000 anually. Local residents or community groups will be able to apply to the fund for projects or activities which provide benefit to the wider community or residents in need.
Long-term Tax Revenue – The solar farm will provide ongoing property tax revenue benefits to the Town of Drumheller over its life span, which in turn will feed into improvement of municipal services.
Depending on the final assessed value of the project, it is likely it will provide an annual combined (rent, tax, and community benefit fund) income stream to the Town and community of over $100,000, from land that previously delivered none.
Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions – Reducing GHG emissions continues to be a high priority for the Provincial Government, and this project will bring a reduction of up to 12,900 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.
Local Employment Opportunity – Construction of the solar and battery project will require many skills and trades. The project is expected to require over 100 workers, and it is anticipated that much of this will come from local companies.
Boosting Local Economy – This project will have construction costs of approximately $25 million, and many contracts will be awarded to local companies. In addition, project workers are expected to require accommodations and services while working on the project during the construction phase, helping to boost local businesses in the retail and hospitality sector. Once operational, the project will require ongoing maintenance, and while a specialist solar O&M company will oversee this, it is likely they will award many sub-contracts for various elements of maintenance work required.
Alberta’s electrical system is independently regulated by the AUC, their role is to ensure the fair and responsible delivery of utility services. Prior to the development beginning construction the AUC must approve a facilities application, which was awarded in April 2020.
Please contact us directly to discuss any questions, concerns or comments that you have regarding the proposed project.
Address: Drumheller Solar Corporation, 350 – 7th Avenue SW, Suite 1205, Calgary, AB, T2P 3N9
Phone: +1 (866) 216 2481