Solar power generating project proposed for RM of Weyburn

A solar power generating project is being proposed for the RM of Weyburn, with the plan to have it commissioned by December of 2020.

An open house for the project was held at the Captain’s Hall on Wednesday for the public to hear information and provide any input they might have.

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The project is being proposed by the Pesakastew Solar Limited Partnership on 90 acres of land located just southwest of Weyburn, using an array of photovoltaic solar panels to produce 10 megawatts of power for Saskatchewan’s electrical grid. The project would be developed by a renewable energy company, Natural Forces, who are partners along with George Gordon Developments Ltd. and Red Dog Holdings Ltd., both First Nations companies.

“The RM has met with Natural Forces several times and looks forward to continuing to foster a good working relationship as the project continues to be developed and into its operation. At the recent open house for the project, the public had an opportunity to meet the proponents, to take a look at the proposal, to see where the process is at and to ask questions,” said Reeve Carmen Sterling of the RM of Weyburn, noting the project has the potential of being the first utility-scale solar project in Saskatchewan.

According to information provided by the proponents, the benefits of this project is to provide clean electricity to 2,400 homes, and displace the equivalent of 18,860 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent a year.

“When the project proponent first approached the RM, council was given a presentation on why the area was chosen and the general process to be followed in developing the project. Given SaskPower’s renewable energy target, we all know how important it is to consider alternative energy sources such as wind and solar energy. SaskPower gave a presentation to council at their February meeting, which confirmed much of the same information provided by Natural Forces that the R.M. of Weyburn is a key location on the grid for expansion of renewable energy with a focus on solar,” she explained.

The RM’s Zoning Bylaw does not currently have any regulations for solar energy, however, the RM has identified its importance and is going through the process of amending the bylaw to accommodate solar development, for both residential and commercial properties.

As such the bylaw needs to be amended, “a development permit from the RM has not been issued yet but adjacent landowners will be notified once the proposal is at that stage. There are still some provincial requirements that need to be met prior to the permitting stage of the development,” said Reeve Sterling.

The project requires a technical proposal, which will be submitted to Saskatchewan Environmental Assessment and Stewardship, with the preliminary environmental studies needed currently underway on the proposed site.

The studies began in the spring of 2018 and will continue through the spring of 2019. Once this is submitted, Sask. Environment’s technical review committee will determine if an environment impact assessment will be required.

There is an extensive list of studies that will be done, including soil mapping, a heritage resource review, studies on migratory and breeding birds, vegetation and weeds, wetland delimination, amphibian auditory, raptor nest and owl surveys, noise studies, and studies on whether the area has sharp-tailed grouse and common night hawks in the area and what impact this development might have.

Natural Forces is a private independent power producer that delivers renewable energy projects in partnership with local communities across Canada. They develop, construct, own and operate wind, solar and hydro projects with First Nations communities, municipalities, universities and local community funds.

George Gordon Developments is the economic development branch George Gordon First Nation, and through partnerships have been able to enter bids on major projects related to resource development with renowned North American companies.

Red Dog Holdings is the economic development branch of Star Blanket Cree Nation, and their goal is to develop long-term partnerships with companies that have shared values and objectives, aiming to provide opportunities for sustainable employment, training, wealth creation and community development.