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Willow Creek MPC denies application for solar farm

The MD of Willow Creek Municipal Planning Commission denied an application to construct an 8.5-megawatt solar electricity generating facility east of Stavely because it does not meet with land use guidelines.

At its July 8 meeting, the MPC reviewed an application by Acestes Power ULC for an 8.5-megawatt solar farm at a portion of SE-15-14-27-4 and a portion of NE-15-14-27-4.

The site is 94.39 acres about 2.5 kilometres northeast of Stavely, consisting of 37,800 solar modules, with a maximum installed height of 14 feet.

MD of Willow Creek manager of planning and development Cindy Chisholm explained this application was exactly the same as a previous one submitted then withdrawn.

The one change is the removal of proposed integration of livestock on the site.

Clyde Carr of Acestes Power was present at the meeting and requested the municipal district identify the amount of a decommission and reclamation bond or irrevocable line of credit to be held in trust for the entire solar array project facility.

Carr suggested $33,000, based on the municipal district’s approval of the Claresholm Solar Project, which contained a $500,000 bond for a 130-megawatt project.

Prorated, that would mean the Stavely project would be $33,000 for its 8.5-megawatt project.

Coun. Ian Sundquist said the MD of Willow Creek wants developments such as this on poor agricultural land, so good land is not taken out of production. This facility is on the best agricultural land.

However, Sundquist admitted council’s hands are tied because the Alberta Utilities Commission takes priority over the municipal district and it has approved the solar farm.

Sundquist also expressed concern about grass growing underneath the solar panels and the fire hazard they pose.

It was noted Acestes Power has a re-vegetation, weed and pest management plan developed already.

Sundquist asked if someone will cut the grass as necessary because 90 acres has a lot of solar panels. Machines cannot get underneath them, so it would all have to be cut by hand.

Reeve Maryanne Sandberg said the Alberta Utilities Commission has already approved, and echoed Sundquist’s sentiment by saying the MD of Willow Creek’s hands are tied.

All the MPC can do, she said, is deal with the development permit Acestes Power has filed.

The MPC also reviewed applications by Acestes Power for a laydown yard at NE-15-14-27-4, and another laydown yard at SE-15-14-27-4, which will serve as temporary laydown areas during construction of the solar farm.

These applications were tabled at the MPC’s June 10 meeting, so all three applications could be reviewed together on July 8.

After a closed session, where the MPC discussed all applications for the meeting, they reverted to open session and denied all three development permit applications, noting they did not meet with land use guidelines and the provincial regional plan to preserve agricultural lands.

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