MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY - County council has approved a plan to engage the public regarding a proposed solar project on an 80-acre parcel in the McDougal Flats area west of Sundre.
The move came by way of motion during Mountain View County's recent regularly scheduled council meeting, held in person and on Zoom.
In 2019, the county sent out a request for proposals for a detailed interconnectivity study and financial analysis of a potential solar photovoltaic system at a former county gravel pit in McDougal Flats along Rge. Rd. 60 south of Highway 584.
SunAlta Power was the successful proponent that delivered the requested studies in 2020.
In November 2020, council authorized county administration to enter into a memorandum of understanding with SunAlta to further explore the potential for a solar project at the site.
A year later In November 2021, council authorized administration to enter into a design agreement with SunAlta to “continue the process of exploration of the development of a solar project at the site in conjunction with county plans to develop the remaining lands into a community amenity.”
The agreement allows SunAlta to enter the lands and undertake studies necessary for the proposed solar system, as well as allowing the company to pursue further partnerships required to support the feasibility of the project.
A key component of the overall redevelopment of the 80-acre parcel involves the residual 40-acre portion of the lands not currently contemplated for the solar project.
“Administration does not currently have any plans, no concepts developed for that portion and is seeking council’s approval to proceed with engaging the public so that future plan and budget can be developed to support those options,” said Chris Atchison, director of legislative services.
The results of the engagement could allow for bringing a concept plan to council in 2023, with the “goal of future development being slated for 2024, pending SunAlta’s timelines and the nature of the public engagement,” he said.
Phase 1 of the proposed engagement process will involve a virtual or in-person open house or series of open houses to communicate the goals of the project and gather public input.
“Sometimes we’re concerned as council to go out to the public with these kinds of things because we think we are going to get bashed over the head or we don’t know what we are going to get back, but I think that in line with the open and transparent communication, I think we are ready to go out with this,” said reeve Angela Aalbers.
“We’ve told the public about it, we know they know about it, and this is a great opportunity to take it out there and see what we get back and them make head or tails of it.”
Deputy reeve Greg Harris said he supports the plan to engage the public on the project.
“Certainly I’d like to see this begin as soon as possible,” said Harris.
Before the project could proceed, the redesignation process would have to be undertaken, including public hearing, council heard.
“There are a lot of steps that have to happen, but we are at the point now where we need to identify what that amenity is going to look like, what the size of that amenity more than anything is going to look like,” said Atchison.
Council approved a motion calling on administration to “begin public engagement on the proposed community amenity project component of that McDougal Pit Solar Project in accordance with the strategic engagement plan presented.”
The county is expected to release further details of the proposed public engagement in the coming days.