With Alberta’s natural gas prices spiking, Devon’s upcoming solar project will provide another avenue for residents to choose their power source from.
Devon is in the final stages of negotiating a deal with a private developer to construct solar panels over the brown lands, owned by Imperial Oil.
The town is taking a leadership role in renewable energy by installing 48,000 solar panels. The energy collected from the sun will generate 23,000 MW of electricity annually — more than enough energy to supply the entire town’s needs.
A long-term contractual agreement has been set up which will provide Devonians with stable electricity prices for 30 years.
“The coal fired plants are coming off grid and they’re being replaced by natural gas, and as we experienced, natural gas can spike,” mayor Stephen Lindop said. “Devon will be in a unique position of having a 30-year guaranteed pricing supply.”
Natural gas prices spiked this past winter, with costs hovering above $5 a gigajoule, and on the coldest days, deals spiked as high as $35 a gigajoule.
The cold weather has been the main cause for the price surge as inventories built for the winter were used up.
Martin King, analyst at FirstEnergy Capital Corp predicted natural gas to cost an average of $4.43 in 2015.
The averages in 2012 and 2013 were $2.28 and $3.02 respectively.
According to Ian MacLellan, vice-president of energyshop.com, a website that tracks energy prices, consumers will be spending the equivalent of an extra $200 or $300 a year.
“It’s a huge benefit to the ratepayers of Devon. It’s a huge plus for Devon because we’re taking a giant step and going into alternative energy and making a much smaller carbon footprint,” Lindop said.
The solar project will be entirely funded by a private developer.
The brown lands have been left contaminated by Imperial Oil and can’t be used for development.
That’s why the solar panels will be built on concrete pillars in order to avoid land disturbance.
An oil-based impermeable membrane a couple of inches thick will be spread on top of the whole area, sealing the surface which will prevent water from penetrating with the pollutants contained in the soil.
The town is taking a leadership role by using the undevelopable brown fields to provide energy for the entire town with a carbon footprint set at zero, Lindop explained.
Council and town administration has been meeting with bureaucrats from the departments of energy and environment who have all been strongly supportive of the project, including minister of energy and MLA for Drayton Valley- Devon, Diana McQueen.
“She has been incredibly helpful and far-seeing,” Lindop said.
“I’ve never seen provincial bureaucrats be so positive. This project is no longer a fantasy and it’s getting close to being a done deal and it’s very realistic that it’ll go forward,” Lindop said.
Devon is currently in its final stages of negotiations with a couple more meetings to be held before the end of this month, whereupon all of the detailed information will be presented at a council meeting.
Published in the Devon Dispatch on Thursday, April 17, 2014