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Penticton  

Solar array site selected

The District of Summerland has announced the planned location for its ambitious public solar array project.

The five-acre property at 13500 Prairie Valley Road is a former district public works yard and storage area. It was selected from a shortlist of four district-owned properties.

District alternative energy coordinator Tami Rothery said council settled on the Prairie Valley Road location primarily because it's already been disturbed.

“We wanted to look for a site where we weren't going to harm the environment in order to do a sustainability project, that just didn’t seem to make sense,” she said, referring to the selected location as a “brownfield site.”

The site is already mostly paved and is littered with old pieces of infrastructure and excavated gravel-pit areas.

It is, however, on the edge of a popular trail network, so the district is proposing the addition of recreational amenities like signage, benches and charging stations along with the array. It’s hoped the impact on neighbours will be minimal.

Rothery noted the array will not be visible to any Prairie Valley residents, as the site is somewhat of a bowl due to previous gravel extraction.

“Solar sites are good neighbours. They don’t make noise, they don’t have moving parts or things like that."

The $6.9M project is being funded by a $6M federal gas tax grant, with local taxpayers picking up the rest. The project will include a one megawatt array and two megawatt battery bank. For context, the array alone will produce about one gigawatt hour per year of electricity for the community. Summerland purchases about 93 gigawatt hours worth of power from Fortis each year to redistribute to residents through its own utility.

Environmental, geotechnical and First Nations assessments are being carried out on the proposed site, working towards hopefully having the array up and running with 18-24 months, assuming the community is on board with the location.

The district is hosting a public meeting on the project May 6, 6 p.m. at the Centre Stage Theatre. Interested parties are encouraged to attend.

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