EPCOR powering water treatment plant with new solar farm

The electrical failure began at 2 a.m. on Jan 29. On that Monday afternoon, EPCOR issued a mandatory non-essential water ban that asked residents to restrict discretionary water use and told businesses that use “non-essential” water, such as car washes, laundromats and rinks, to close temporarily. Photo Credit: EPCOR, via YouTube screen capture

EPCOR’s new 13.6-megawatt solar farm in Edmonton is providing about half of the electricity needed to power its E.L. Smith Water Treatment Plant.

Enoch Cree Nation helped to name the new solar farm kīsikāw pīsim, which translates to “daylight sun” in Cree. The newly-commissioned site consists of more than 30,000 panels over nearly 21 hectares of EPCOR’s land that was reserved for future expansion of the water treatment plant.

“We intend to make the solar farm a highly accessible site for research, tours and sharing of history and cultural resources including interpretive signage in a prominent location and establishing a demonstration site that will facilitate school tours and other learning opportunities,” EPCOR announced with the farm’s opening.

The $40.7-million solar farm also allows a direct reduction in grid energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, rather than just credits, EPCOR officials announced. The panels also allow the ability to reduce electricity use from the grid during peak power price periods, and allow for short outage power backup.

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The solar farm had initially faced opposition from river valley conservation advocates in the Edmonton area. They feared the project would negatively impact wildlife in the area. To mitigate their concerns, EPCOR installed 11 wildlife cameras to monitor wildlife movement pre-construction, during construction and post-construction. The company also preserved a wildlife corridor between the solar farm and the North Saskatchewan River, with a minimum width of 125 metres at its narrowest point.

The solar farm utilizes more than 1,000 batteries, each weighing 57 kg and enclosed within two sea-can style buildings on site. Controllers, inverters and transformers round out the battery energy storage system. Some $10.7 million has been secured from National Resources Canada for the storage system.

The E.L. Smith Water Treatment Plant provides approximately 60% of the water to Edmonton and some 65 surrounding communities. It was built in 1976 and upgraded in 2008 to increase the reliability and capacity of Edmonton’s long-term water supply. Its process includes coagulation, flocculation, filtration with free chlorine, chloramine, and UV light disinfection.

EPCOR has also partnered with the University of Alberta and The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology to explore other research and post-secondary learning and development opportunities on site.

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