Edmonton’s city council passed a narrow vote Monday night to allow city-owned EPCOR to build a 45,000-panel solar farm in the city’s river valley.
The E.L Smith solar farm will, according to EPCOR, generate renewable energy to help power the nearby E.L. Smith water treatment facility.
According to the CBC, “Edmonton city council has approved a land zoning change for a contentious solar farm next to a water treatment plant in the city's river valley. The 51-acre project from Epcor will be located near the E.L. Smith Water Treatment Plant, in a southwest section of the river valley."
The solar farm, which includes about 45,000 solar panels, will have a peak generating capacity of about 12 megawatts.
The rezoning passed with a 7-6 vote Monday night, following a public hearing involving dozens of speakers.”
The 2 outspoken conservatives on council, Mike Nickel and Jon Dziadyk, voted against the solar farm that Mayor Don Iveson insisted would help the city achieve its self-prescribed green energy directives, stating “Mayor Don Iveson voted in support of the rezoning application along with councillors Moe Banga, Bev Esslinger, Ben Henderson, Sarah Hamilton, Tony Caterina and Michael Walters.
The six councillors who voted against the application were Paquette, Tim Cartmell, Jon Dziadyk, Andrew Knack, Scott McKeen and Mike Nickel.
"I would not support putting solar panels throughout seven thousand acres of the river valley" said Iveson. "But next to water treatment plant on land that is reserved for its expansion, that's previously disturbed, on a temporary basis, to help us reach our climate goals — makes sense to me."
EPCOR is a utility provider with 2 million customers in Canada and the U.S. providing power, water, drainage, and natural gas services. The city of Edmonton is EPCOR’s only shareholder and the company has a mandate from council to collect $1.9 million per year from customers to fund a green power initiative that procures 10% of the electricity required for EPCOR’s water treatment business from “a new, local, and 100% renewable project.”
Edmonton Ward 11 city councilor, Mike Nickel, is now collecting signatures from “concerned citizens who are upset at the 7-6 decision by city council.” Nickel hopes his petition will force city council to reassess the close decision to allow the construction of the Epcor project by putting the matter to the public in the form of a referendum to coincide with the next municipal election in 2021.
On Nickel’s new “Save Our River Valley” website, he writes “there is no shortage of space in and around the city, so why was Epcor’s first instinct to place it in our treasured river valley?”
Edmonton’s River Valley, which lies along beside the North Saskatchewan River, is the longest stretch of connected urban parkland in North America, covering a length of 48 km including 11 lakes and 22 ravines, making it 22 times larger than New York City’s Central Park.