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Calgary councillor eyes incentives for already-approved ATCO solar farms

The solar farms are in southeast Calgary and produce 27 and 37 MW, respectively.

Many jurisdictions have gone the route of incentives for low-carbon projects, and now a Calgary councillor wants the city to join them.

Ward 12 Coun. Evan Spencer has put forward a notice of motion for Tuesday’s Executive Committee meeting, looking at incentives for a pair of southeast Calgary solar farms. The notice of motion was reviewed for technical merit and approved at that meeting 10-3. Couns. Andre Chabot, Dan McLean and Sean Chu voted against moving it ahead.

In September 2021, ATCO Group announced they’d purchased the rights to build two solar installations in the city’s southeast. One project is near 114 Avenue SE and 52 Street SE – the Deerfoot project – and another project is at Barlow Trail and 114 Avenue SE. They are both on brownfield land.

At that time, they’d mentioned that development permits were already underway, and construction would be complete by Q4 2022.

The total combined installation will have 175,000 bifacial solar panels that cover the equivalent of 170 Canadian football fields. The electricity generated would power 18,000 homes and offset 68,000 tonnes of carbon annually, the company said.

ATCO said that they’re working hard to decarbonize energy through increased sources of renewable power generation.

“We are encouraged by any discussions to create a more favourable economic climate for the development and expansion of renewable power projects – by ATCO and other developers – in this city,” read a statement from ATCO.

“Incentives from all levels of government are common and useful in accelerating the transition to renewable energy projects and in turn, those renewable projects generate tax revenues to municipal governments.”

‘Not as lucrative as one might think’: Spencer

The farms are in Spencer’s southeast Calgary ward. He said the conversation about potential incentives for the project have been ongoing. It was on his radar when he was with former Coun. Shane Keating’s office.  He suggested that in ATCO’s review of the projects there was a jurisdictional scan that showed many areas are providing incentives.

When asked why the city would offer incentives after the project was committed, Spencer said city admin had the same response.

“It wasn’t until we went further into the conversation that the case came out to say like, Hey, whoa, this is not as lucrative as one might think,” Spencer said.

Spencer said doing this work could also provide a roadmap for incentivizing other project not already in the ground. He said while there are some incentives from other levels of government, the city doesn’t have anything specific in place.

“We start looking at this we create a little bit of a blueprint of how projects like this can work so it’s a little bit easier,” he said.  

“We don’t have to go through the investigation process.”

The notice of motion directs administration to negotiate with ATCO on incentives for their solar farm projects. Recommended options are expected back no later than Q2 2023.