The City of Kimberley, B.C. announced the start of construction on the $5.3 million SunMine solar project, Western Canada's largest scale solar energy project of its kind. It is also the first solar project in B.C. to sell power to the BC Hydro grid.
SunMine will have more than 4,000 solar-cell modules, mounted on 96 solar trackers which follow the sun’s movement, maximizing solar exposure.
“This is really just the fraction of the potential on this site, we had to start somewhere,” said Scott Sommerville, the city’s chief administrative officer.
Current plans would produce one megawatt of power, enough for roughly 200 homes. But Sommerville said the site has the potential to expand to 200 megawatts, enough to power 40,000 homes. Sommerville said he has already received some interest from investors regarding expansion.
“That would basically be enough to cover the east Kootenays,” Sommerville said.
Kimberley was chosen after analysts determined it to be the sunniest location in the province, averaging 300 days of sunshine a year. And the snow in the winter reflects sunlight, meaning more energy production.
“We are known as the sun city,” Sommerville said.
The project is being supported by Teck, whose involvement, first announced in 2011, includes providing land and site infrastructure as well as a $2 million contribution towards the project. SunMine is located on Teck’s former Sullivan Mine site, which has been reclaimed.
The Province’s Innovative Clean Energy (ICE) Fund program will provide $1 million for SunMine through the EcoSmart Foundation, a Vancouver based non-profit foundation promoting economically and ecologically smart projects between public and private sectors.
EcoSmart has been a driving force that helped incubate the project from concept to reality, according to the City of Kimberley. The SunMine project also has support from the Columbia Basin Trust, which supports efforts to deliver social, economic and environmental benefits to Columbia Basin residents. Additional funding and assistance has been received from the Southern Interior Development Initiative Trust.
Sommerville said a 2011 referendum saw a majority of Kimberley voters support the City borrowing $2 million toward construction of SunMine. The City and its partners allocated three years to securing funding, negotiating ownership, undertaking due diligence and prefeasibility studies, and completing 17 agreements with eight different organizations.