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AUC seeking public input on proposed Sollair project near Airdrie's northeast border

The Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) is seeking public input on the General Land and Power Corporation’s (GL&P) application to create a new 476-acre Sollair Solar Energy Project near the northern boundary of Airdrie.
The Alberta Utilities Commission wants to hear from area residents about a proposed solar energy project just northeast of Airdrie's boundary with Rocky View County.

The Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) is seeking public input on the General Land and Power Corporation’s (GL&P) application to create a new 476-acre Solar Energy Project near the northern boundary of Airdrie, called Sollair.

The parcel in question is located in Rocky View County, approximately 800 metres east of Highway 2 and adjacent to the east of Range Road 292.

The project had been vigorously opposed by several nearby property owners by the time it came to Rocky View County (RVC) for a land use redesignation to direct control earlier this year. The redesignation would have allowed future construction of the solar energy project pending the AUC’s final decision, and would have allowed GL&P to demonstrate it had strong local support. 

Ultimately, RVC council opted to deny the land use redesignation to the applicant on the basis it would take agricultural land out of production.

However, under provincial regulations, the AUC has ultimate authority to either allow a solar farm of this size to be constructed or not, regardless of what decisions are made by the local municipality.

Nearby landowner Brent Fletcher said it is important for those opposed to the project to realize AUC has this authority to overrule a local municipality on these types of energy projects.

“The most important thing in this whole episode is to be certain people know what is being proposed. It did not die at the Rocky View County meeting that was held (April 26),” Fletcher said in a statement provided to the Rocky View Weekly. “If AUC approved the Sollair solar project on Section 26, this project, good or bad, will go through. I am convinced of that ... I am told the only way the AUC will delay their approval of the solar project is be (receiving) valid submissions opposing the project."

The County confirmed it was watching the AUC review process unfold with interest.

“We…recognize the concerns of our residents that are participating in the AUC hearing process,” the County said in a statement released to local media. “As the hearing is underway, we are not able to provide any update at this time. The County was not circulated by the AUC, as it does not meet the test of being a person directly and adversely affected by any AUC decision on the solar farm.”

GL&P told the Rocky View Weekly the clear benefits of the project would allow it to make a strong case to the AUC during the public hearing phase.

“The project will cover approximately 480 acres on 640 acres of land owned by GL&P and will provide renewable energy to power an estimated 25,000 homes,” GL&P said in a statement. “We have completed preliminary development requirements including engineering, environmental impact assessments, noise/glare assessments and stakeholder engagement in accordance with the Alberta Utility Commission’s (AUC) requirements. This information has been provided to landowners and agencies within 800 meters of the project land. Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) have reviewed the environmental assessments completed for the Project and issued a referral report with an overall risk ranking of ‘Low Risk.’

“The Project land owned by GL&P has historically been cultivated farmland,” the company later added. “GL&P recognize and support the value of Alberta farmland and the agricultural industry. GL&P are proposing an Alberta first of its kind Agri-voltaic pilot program as part of the Project. Agri-voltaic or Agrisolar facilities are photovoltaic generation facilities where the land is simultaneously used for agriculture.”

Those who wish to voice their thoughts or concerns on the Sollair project (Proceeding 27582) have until Oct. 7 to make a written submission to the AUC. All parties must be registered through the AUC’s E-Filing system to do that under the “registered parties” tab.

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