M.D. of Taber re­views so­lar project set­back amend­ments

Prairie Post (West Edition) - - Alberta - BY COLE PARKIN­SON

AL­BERTA NEWS­PA­PER GROUP

As so­lar energy sys­tems con­tinue to break ground across south­ern Al­berta, the Mu­nic­i­pal District of Taber have started dis­cussing amend­ments within their Land Use By­law.

In June 2016, the M.D.’s Land Use By­law was amended to in­clude spe­cific cri­te­ria reg­u­lat­ing so­lar energy sys­tems and sev­eral so­lar energy sys­tem de­vel­op­ments have been pro­cessed and de­cided since.

During coun­cil’s reg­u­lar meet­ing on Sept. 28, a dis­cus­sion around the amend­ments was had.

“Dis­cus­sion and di­rec­tion re­gard­ing the so­lar energy sys­tems cri­te­ria within the Land Use By­law will en­sure ad­e­quacy and rel­e­vancy of stan­dards con­sid­er­ing changes to leg­is­la­tion and tech­nol­ogy and com­mon de­vel­op­ment is­sues iden­ti­fied in pro­cess­ing such ap­pli­ca­tions over the past four years,” reads ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­port.

A memo for the Old­man River Re­gional Ser­vices Com­mis­sion (ORRSC) was pre­sented to coun­cil which listed six amend­ments/dis­cus­sion items.

The first deals with re­nam­ing and re­clas­si­fy­ing so­lar de­vel­op­ment into three cat­e­gories — util­ity-scale, largescale and small-scale.

The cat­e­go­riza­tions are based on the Mi­cro-Gen­er­a­tion Reg­u­la­tion which cur­rently al­lows the pro­duc­tion of up to five megawatts of elec­tric­ity for in­di­vid­ual use.

Cur­rently, they are cat­e­go­rized as house­hold sys­tems and com­mer­cial/in­dus­trial sys­tems.

The sec­ond up­dates the de­vel­op­ment ap­pli­ca­tion re­quire­ments which in­cludes ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion reg­u­larly re­quested by the SDA such as min­i­mal clear­ance of plants from ground level, the re­flec­tive value of pan­els, site grad­ing, drainage plans, fire re­pose, weed man­age­ment plans and any ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion deemed nec­es­sary by the de­vel­op­ment au­thor­ity to as­sess the suit­abil­ity of the project.

The third sees an in­clu­sion of a stan­dard re­gard­ing min­i­mum set­back from ex­ist­ing dwellings from pro­posed util­ity-scale so­lar energy sys­tems.

“As we’ve writ­ten it here, the pro­posed set­back would be 980 feet or 300 meet­ings from a dwelling or land zoned res­i­den­tial use. That would be mea­sured from the full ex­tent of the area pro­posed to be de­vel­oped to the clos­est point of the dwelling,” said Bon­nie Brun­ner, se­nior plan­ner with ORRSC. “That is con­sis­tent with what other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have se­lected. For ex­am­ple, Vul­can County, Leth­bridge County and Wheat­land all have 300-me­tre set­backs.”

The fourth adds de­vel­op­ment stan­dards ap­pli­ca­ble to util­ity-scale so­lar sys­tems in­clud­ing sur­face drainage and ero­sion con­trol, green­ing, the spac­ing be­tween so­lar col­lec­tors for fire­fight­ing and min­i­mal clear­ance of pan­els from grade to fa­cil­i­tate and main­tain the growth of peren­nial veg­e­ta­tion.

The penul­ti­mate amend­ment up­dates sit­ing cri­te­ria for large-scale and util­ity-scale so­lar col­lec­tors.

The fi­nal pro­posed change would add de­com­mis­sion­ing re­quire­ments for large-scale and util­ity-scale so­lar col­lec­tors.

An­other po­ten­tial route the M.D. hopes so­lar de­vel­op­ers ex­plore is place projects on poor farm­ing land and build in­fra­struc­ture in­stead of try­ing to shoe­horn them closer to al­ready ex­ist­ing sub­sta­tions.

“I know the M.D. spans lots of land and we do have lots of land that is poor qual­ity, it just hap­pens to be a long ways away from these sub­sta­tions. In my opin­ion, some of these large scale (projects), if they were to go to­gether and build the in­fra­struc­ture for the sub­sta­tions, it would be worth it in the grand scheme,” said Coun. Leav­itt Howg.

A mo­tion to have ad­min­is­tra­tion prepare amend­ments to the Land Use By­law re­gard­ing so­lar set­backs as dis­cussed, and for­ward them to the Sub­di­vi­sion and De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity, was car­ried.

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