By Trevor Busch
Alberta’s sunny south has a wealth of opportunities for solar power generation, and Taber town council will be visiting an early adopter in the region to see if a similar model might be the right fit for the municipality.
“The economic development officer for the Town of Raymond, Mr. Greg Robinson, invited us to his municipality,” said CAO Cory Armfelt at town council’s Aug. 17 meeting. “They are a net zero municipality with regards to the electricity that they’re utilizing, and through your connections with local businesses, Mr. Mayor, you know of the firms that have done the work there, that have undertaken that work and they’ve been in discussion with you.”
The Town of Raymond has been net zero with solar power generation since 2018, believed to be the first in Alberta. The municipality sells excess power to the electrical grid and buys it back when it needs it. The solar panels are leased from Enmax and came at an installed cost of $2.8 million, but a $630,000 provincial grant helped soften that blow.
“What month are we looking at? Are we going to pick a sunny day, a cloudy day?” asked Coun. Jack Brewin. “When is the best time to check out a solar panel?”
The Town of Raymond recently invited town council to participate in a tour of their solar infrastructure, and administration was requesting direction from council on their interest and availability to attend. Administration was proposing a tour sometime in September-October 2020.
Armfelt suggested the specific dates could be finalized later, but for now administration was seeking an acknowledgment of council’s willingness to attend a tour.
“I fully support this recommendation. I think we would avail ourselves of going and checking it out,” said Coun. Mark Garner. “If they’re net zero, I think that’s something that should appeal to everyone in the room here. So it behooves us to go and take a look.”
Coun. Carly Firth was also enthusiastic about the idea.
“I would be in favour of taking a tour.”
Interest in this area would appear to be a change of tune for the Town of Taber. In September 2016, previous council declined participation in the province’s Alberta Municipal Solar grant program following a 5-2 split vote.
“Being that Taber’s an oil and gas town, I would just as soon promote something that conserves oil and gas a bit better, and not go after this solar, or wind,” said Brewin in 2016. “It just doesn’t prove in the end to be viable.”
Taber has some of the longest sun-filled days in Canada, which is still largely an untapped resource that is also renewable. Solar technology has improved exponentially in recent years, making solar panels more efficient than in the past.
Following discussion, council voted unanimously to undertake a solar infrastructure tour in the Town of Raymond with all interested member of council in attendance, with the date to be determined.