SunMIne - courtesy EcoSmart

Potentially, The biggest Solar project in North America

By Roy L Hales

Screen-shot-2014-03-18-at-3.43.47-PM1The 9th annual Paddle for the Peace begins today: Saturday, July 12, 2014. This year’s trek is especially important because of the impending decision on British Columbia’s proposed Site C dam. If this project is approved, close to 9,429 acres of class 1-5 farmland will be submerged by water. The government will also be breaking treaty 8, which promised the local First Nations they would be allowed to pursue their traditional way of life in this area “for as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the rivers flow.” In its zeal to develop Site C, British Columbia’s Provincial Government could miss the opportunity to build what is, potentially, the biggest solar project in North America,

Sunmine will use Trackers, which follow the sun as it moves across the sky -  courtesy EcoSmart
Sunmine will use Trackers, which follow the sun as it moves across the sky (Click on image to expand) – courtesy EcoSmart

SunMine, near Kimberly, could produce as much as 200 MW.

The costly high capacity transmission lines and substations, which will be needed, are already there.

Unlike some of the large projects in the US, which cause a great deal of damage to local ecosystems, there will be no negative environmental impact at SunMine. It is built on an old Teck Resources Ltd mining site.

“Land like this cannot be used for much else,” said Michel de Spot, CEO of Vancouver’s Ecosmart Foundation.

However Kimberley has more solar potential than any other location in BC. It receives +300 days of sunshine a year and the site is a south-facing hill . As PV solar becomes more efficient a lower temperatures, a solar system operating at -0ºC ambient temperature in Kimberly is more efficient than the same system operating at +35º C in a desert. A solar installation 1,300 meter above sea level, in Kimberley, will produce results close to California’s.

de Spot said “You can not find a site much better than this” for solar energy.

SunMine is owned by the city of Kimberley, which held a referendum in which the vast majority of inhabitants approved borrowing $2 million for the project.

The Sullivan site today -  courtesy EcoSmart
The Sullivan site today (Click on image to expand) – courtesy EcoSmart

Teck contributed another $2 million, plus a lot of their old Sullivan Mine site.

British Columbia’s Clean Energy (ICE) Fund program will provide $1 million through the EcoSmart Foundation.

EcoSmart approached the City of Kimberley and Teck about the project in 2008.

The only limitations come from BC Hydro, which currently does not have “standing offers for projects” over 15 MW.

When SunMine goes online in January 2015, it will be producing a mere 1 MW. That’s enough to power around 200 homes.

SunMine will be the first ground-mounted, grid connected solar power plant in Western Canada. 4,000 solar cell modules, mounted on 96 solar tracking stands, will generate electricity as they follow the sun’s movements throughout the day.

“This has the potential to become the biggest solar project in North America,” de Spots said. “It all depends on BC Hydro future needs”

At the moment the province’s attention is focused elsewhere, where a coalition of environmentalists, local inhabitants and First Nation’s groups – including the Treaty 8 Tribal Association – is opposing the proposed Site C dam.

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