Westward shift for Canadian PV as BC gets first large plant

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Work is set to begin on a 1.05MW PV array in British Columbia, claimed to be the largest PV installation in western Canada.

The project in Kimberley, dubbed SunMine, marks a decisive westward step for solar in Canada, which to date has been concentrated in Ontario, owing to its successful feed-in tariff programme.

The project will be built on the site of the former Sullivan metal ore mine near Kimberley.

Kimberley’s municipal authority will own and operate SunMine. Funding for the project will come from a variety of sources: Teck, the mine owner, will put in CA$2 million, the City of Kimberley CA$2 million and the BC provincial government’s Innovative Clean Energy Fund a further CA$1 million, via the Vancouver-based non-profit EcoSmart Foundation.

Power from the plant will be injected into the BC Hydro grid, the first time the provincial utility has bought solar power.

Doug Little, vice-president, Energy Planning & Economic Development, BC Hydro, said: “This is the first solar project to sign an electricity purchase agreement with BC Hydro and it fits well into our Standing Offer Program. This offers a simple, streamlined process to allow small, clean energy projects to feed electricity into BC Hydro’s grid.”

The Canadian arm of international engineering, procurement and construction firm, Conergy, has been hired as the main contractor for the plant. It is expected to comprise 4,000 modules and 96 tracker systems.

Kimberley's mayor, Ron McRae, said: “SunMine aligns with the community's values associated with environment, community and a history of innovation and resilience. We're creating the future, not awaiting it, and this project shows we mean business.”

“Solar energy is one of the fastest growing industries in North America. The first large-scale solar power plant in western Canada is a timely game changer,” said Michel de Spot, president and CEO of the EcoSmart Foundation.

The plant is scheduled for operation by January 2015.

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