The location of a solar energy project to be constructed on the toe of Cartwright Mountain has divided members Summerland council.
At a meeting on July 13, council voted 4-3 to approve the site at 13500 Prairie Valley Rd., 12591 Morrow St. and Denike Street for the community’s solar energy storage project.
Due to the COVID-19 protocols, only 50 people, including council, staff and members of the public, were allowed in the Summerland Arena Banquet Room at any time. The meeting was also available for livestream viewing online through the District of Summerland YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/results?search_query=district+of+summerland.
The solar project has been discussed for several years and there have been 11 presentations about it.
The project, with an estimated cost of between $6 million and $7 million, would have 3,200 solar panels. The array would have an estimated lifespan of 35 years while the storage batteries are expected to last 20 years.
Tami Rothery, sustainability and alternative energy coordinator for Summerland, said multiple sites were selected before the municipally owned property on Cartwright Mountain was selected.
The land is in the municipality’s Urban Growth Area but is not considered an ideal location for future residential or commercial development because of its distance from downtown, schools and other community infrastructure.
The site has generated mixed reactions from council as well as from the community.
Members of the public spoke at the meeting, wrote letters and sent in petitions with their concerns and objections.
Petitions alone had 174 names attached.
“It is a lot of money and will benefit very few residents,” said Diane Colman Ambery, adding that this year, as Summerland and the world cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is not a time for additional expenses.
“This is something extra that the town does not need and barely will benefit from,” said Lauren Antonovitch.
Ian McIntosh said the land proposed for the site is in the municipality’s Urban Growth Area and represents close to 20 per cent of the property base earmarked for future urban growth.
Diana Smith said spending money of this project is irresponsible, since the municipality of Summerland has a budget shortfall of $3.2 million this year.
Jai Zachary of ElectroMotion Energy in Summerland described the project as “antiquated technology.”
Don Gayton outlined several concerns about the location, including the affects of the location on development sprawl.
Others voiced support for the solar project.
“We should and can help to lessen the peak demand on our supply utilities by managing some of the peak load needs with this project,” said Mike Brandson. “The project is an important step towards Summerland becoming a carbon neutral community,” said Barry Loewen.
Coun. Doug Patan suggested selling the land for housing and using the money to benefit the community.
“I think the solar project is a great project, but not at the toe of Cartwright,” he said.
Coun. Martin Van Alphen said other sites near the Cartwright Mountain site would be better suited to the solar project.
Coun. Richard Barkwill said the site is ideal for housing development instead of for the solar project.
“I think we should take advantage of this opportunity while it’s here. If we don’t, this opportunity will pass us by,” said Coun. Doug Holmes.
Coun. Erin Trainer also voiced support for the proposal as presented. “I believe it is the best fit for this project,” she said.
“The prospect of an affordable housing project in this area could absolutely not happen,” said Mayor Toni Boot.
Grant funding covers more than 85 per cent of the total cost of the solar project.
The site for the solar project was approved with Barkwill, Patan and Van Alphen opposed.
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