Company looking at solar farm potential

Property containing gravel pit between Cranbrook and Fort Steele being investigated for solar power potential.


Given the success of the Sun Mine, it looks like there are plans afoot for another solar-capturing facility in the area.

While the Sun Mine sits on Teck’s former Sullivan Mine Concentrator site outside Kimberley, this new proposed project is located between Cranbrook and Fort Steele.

The proposal, referred to the Regional District of East Kootenay in late August from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, involves seeking a crown land application for an investigative license to assess the potential for a solar farm.

The application covers 300 hectares and is roughly located beyond a gravel pit adjacent to the St. Mary’s River in-between Cranbrook and Fort Steele. The vision is to have three separate areas capturing sunlight on the property.

Currently, the proposal is only at an investigative stage and, following RDEK board approval on Friday, the proponents are allowed to install a small weather station to collect weather information.

Should weather conditions prove favourable and a solar farm is proposed, the land will need to be referred back to the RDEK for a rezoning application along with Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) approval for non-farm use.

The proponents—Node Engineering Corporation—are estimating as much as 45 megawatts of electricity can be produced and connected to a nearby B.C. Hydro substation.

Board chair Rob Gay says the RDEK is very much supportive of alternative energy, but notes that the proposal is still in a very early stage.

“Is that the right location? That’ll be something we’ll have to talk about when we get there. This is just to see if it could be a viable operation,” he said.

“There’s some positives there in the fact that it was a gravel pit and parts of it are in use, but all of it isn’t, and it’s also located close to B.C. Hydro lines.”

Gay added that everyone is still caught up in the excitement of the Sun Mine, which went live this summer and features 4,032 solar-cell modules, mounted on 96 solar trackers that generates 1.05 megawatts.

And there is plenty of room for expansion out at that site, he continued.

“I think there’s ample area there to put these in one area, which, to me, makes a lot of sense because I think there’s a lot of economies of scale when you’re putting some of the same infrastructure in place,” Gay said.

“The Kimberley one certainly, to me on the property, there’s a lot of opportunity with some reclaimed mine site that really doesn’t have neighbours, where, in this case, there will be some neighbouring properties that will want to have a say in it.”