Originally published on the ECOreport.
After almost a year of feeding the grid, British Columbia’s first utility-scale solar installation has proven it can “do what it was designed to do.” Though SunMine’s production fell in December and January, the site was back within 95% of the projected yield by the end of April (1,500 MWh of the anticipated 1,585 MWh). Now that the sunnier months have begun, the 1.05 MW installation is producing excess electricity. It is not surprising to hear that at the Engineers Canada Awards Gala on May 26th in Charlottetown, PEI, Canada’s SunMine received national recognition.
SunMine Received National Recognition
The National Award for an Engineering Project or Achievement is awarded to projects that have either outstanding engineering aspects or a significant positive impact on society.
“The award was actually given to EcoSmart, for their role in bringing SunMine into Fruition,” explained Kevin Wilson, Economic Development Officer for the City of Kimberley. [1. Roy L Hales interview with Kevin Wilson, Economic Development Officer for the City of Kimberley]
Michel de Spot, the President and CEO of EcoSmart, explained the site’s significance in a video on the SunMine website:
“(SunMine) is the first large-scale solar plant outside of Ontario and the first time that a Canadian mining company has done this on their land. It is the first solar photovoltaic plant owned by a community or city (Kimberly). As you can see from the background, we are pretty high in the mountains. This is the highest solar plant in Canada. It is also the first large-scale application of this tracker, and the reason we use it is it increases the energy by 35% to 40%.”
“The role that Michel and EcoSmart have played has been a role of visionary, consulting engineer. They have been attempting to keep the big picture in mind as we have been moving a fairly complex project forward,” added Kimberly’s mayor, Don McCormick.
Wilson described some technical issues, which are not surprising given the number of moving parts that “had never been combined in that way before.” Three of the inverters have been underperforming and it turned out that the manufacturer had a known issue with the circuit boards.
“So in the next month we’ll have all of the circuit boards, for all 32 inverters, replaced under warranty,” he said.
There are presently 4,032 solar cell modules spread across 6 acres of a reclaimed mine site. There is enough room to accommodate a hundred-fold expansion, though BC Hydro has only contracted to accept 2 MW.
Planting A Seed For Future Development
Wilson believes SunMine is planting a seed for future solar development within British Columbia.
There have been over 9,000 unique views of the SunMine website and over 600 people have toured the installation.
“The recognition the City has received for the SunMine project has been exceptional, and the requests for tours and information on the project has been overwhelming,” says Chief Administrative Officer Scott Sommerville.
In addition to the National Award for an Engineering Project, SunMine has also received:
- The 2015 Community Excellence Award for Leadership and Innovation in Green Initiatives from the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM)
- The Sustainability Award from the Association of Professional Engineers and Geologists of BC (APEGBC)
- The Community of the Year from Clean Energy BC
“We’ve had lots of interest and I would expect to hear an announcement of another solar project within the region in the next six months. We’ve heard some fairly strong signals from the utility that they’re interested in doing another large project,” said Wilson.
He could not add further details, or even clarify which of the province’s utilities is involved, but did say a First Nation is involved.
“Unfortunately B.C. Hydro’s appetite for solar is not what we hoped to feed a growing sector. We think they have their hands full with with Site C and they are not going to be buying as much power, so it restricts our ability to grow and expand.”
Photo Credits: Top: Kimberly’s mayor, Don McCormick, at SunMine; Bottom: SunMine – All photos courtesy the City of Kimberly