A $69 million solar farm in Summerside is taking shape |  CBC News

A $69 million solar farm in Summerside is taking shape | CBC News

A new $69 million solar farm is forming in Summerside, covering 30 hectares and, by the end of this year, featuring more than 65,000 solar panels.

The project is called Sunbank, and the city is counting on it to bring them one step closer to energy self-sufficiency.

“About 21 megawatts of total power when all is said and done, and then we’re going to balance that with about five trailers of battery tractors,” said Mike Thosowska, director of economic development at Summerside.

“And once the energy is generated, we can store it, and then use it in the grid.”

The Sunbank project is being paid for with funding from all three levels of government, as well as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and Samsung. (Shane Hennessy/CBC)

Thosowska said 21 megawatts is equivalent to 25 percent of the city’s total electricity needs.

He called it “Green Field”.

“This project will take us from currently 42 percent of our generation to more than 65 percent. Our ultimate goal is to get to 100, but this project gives us the next big step forward in terms of generating our own energy,” Thousowska said.

“Our ambition has always been to get as much renewable energy as possible, as much green technology as possible, as much innovation as possible.”

Battery storage key

Thatsowska said battery storage, which covers nearly an acre, is a game-changer for renewable energy.

“This is the key to renewables, in our view, if you don’t have storage, you can’t manage and control it,” said Thosowska.

“Renewable energy is great. But as we found out on our wind farm, the wind blows when you don’t need it. So it reduces the impact you can have with renewables.”

Thesowska said the Sunbank project is being paid for with funding from all three levels of government, as well as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and Samsung.

Greg Judd (left) and Mike Thatsowska at Sunbank’s solar farm, located in the Summerside Well field. (Shane Hennessy/CBC)

He said it took four years from the initial conception of the project, to being fully funded, and now it’s in the construction phase.

The first renewable

The city’s director of municipal services said the solar farm is building on the success of the city’s wind farm, developing a smart grid that has allowed them to store that energy when the wind isn’t blowing.

“One of the first municipally built wind farms in Canada, and one of the first at Credit Union Place, smart storage systems in Canada,” said Greg Judd.

“Once again here, at Sunbank, there is a utility-scale storage system and a solar system, on the utility grids to help it be more secure, reliable and economical.”

Judit says Credit Union Place’s smart storage system, using solar panels and battery storage to drive down electric prices for the recreational facility, was one of the first in Canada. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

Because the city owns and operates the facilities, it’s easier to be innovative, Jude said.

He said that another objective of the Sunbank project is to develop the clean technology sector in Prince Edward Island

Many of our companies are now positioning themselves to be in one of the greenest facilities in Canada.– Mike Thesowska

“There are about 210 full-time equivalent jobs being created by the project itself,” Judit said. “We have 32 employees on site now, and that will deteriorate and flow through the entire project.”

“You want to grow the industry, by knowing how these projects work together so that they can take that knowledge and export it if they choose to, or keep building on PEI.”

Judit says about 210 full-time equivalent jobs are being created by the project itself, with 32 employees currently on site. (Shane Hennessy/CBC)

net goal zero

The project was initially supposed to be operational by May 2022, but has been delayed due to the pandemic.

The props are 65 percent complete, Judit said, and the goal is to start installing the solar panels by July.

“It’s really the first start as we really start producing electricity,” Judit said.

“We’re not using it anywhere yet, but once you put in your first solar panel, you harness the power of the sun. Then the next step is to get that into the electrical grid.”

Judit said the Sunbank solar farm is expected to be operational by early December 2022.

The Sunbank solar farm covers 30 hectares and, by the end of this year, will have more than 65,000 solar panels. (Shane Hennessy/CBC)

Judit and Thousowska said that Summerside greening has been observed.

“The other thing I notice as part of my job in economic development is that a lot of our companies are positioning themselves now, and they are in one of the greenest facilities in Canada,” said Thosowska.

“An example of that, our hospitals, our manufacturing industries, they all use this green power. That’s a great statement to make about Summerside.”

The Sunbank solar farm is expected to be operational by early December 2022. (Shane Hennessy/CBC)

The end goal is for Summerside to be net zero, Thousowska said.

“Our ultimate goal is just to get 100 percent renewable energy, get business and residents out of oil if we can, and drive as much innovation into our community as possible,” said Thosowska.

“Obviously we’re trying to align ourselves with the regional and federal goals, I’m going to say. But I think we can get there faster. It’s just a matter that we put our minds to it.”

2022-05-24 09:00:00

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