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Town of Coalhurst holds cord-cutting ceremony for new solar array

Posted on February 22, 2023 by Sunny South News

By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News

The Town of Coalhurst is working toward a greener future.

With combined funding from the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre (MCCAC), the Alberta Municipal Solar Program (AMSP), and the Town of Coalhurst, the Town has completed a 64 kilowatt solar PV ground system at the sewage lagoon site. Although the project was completed last fall and “went live” in October, the official cord-cutting ceremony signifies the Town’s commitment to sustainability.

The solar array consists of 144 x 445-watt DC solar panels and a 150 kilowatt AC micro-inverter. The total system cost was $155,282 inclusive of cost-savings for first time applicants. The MCCAC funding covered 41 per cent ($64,000), and was implemented through the MCCAC rebate program. The solar panel array will offset energy demands for the Town’s lift station, with surplus being added to the grid.

The Town of Coalhurst brought on MPE Engineering to work on the project. Initially, the Town of Coalhurst indicated they would like to create a solar panel array which would generate approximately 165 kilowatts of power to displace all of the power used by the various municipal buildings.

Peter Goertzen, a mechanical and electrical engineer at MPE noted, “due to the way the grid is set up from Fortis, we could only install 64 kilowatts an hour,” at the project site.

Pointing to the solar array across the road from the lift station, Goertzen explained, “basically this lift station uses whatever that solar system produces.” There is also an additional 10 per cent extra power generated, beyond what the lift station uses in each year.

The new solar array is designed to produce around 86,000 kilowatts per year and is expected to offset about $9,500 in real power costs for the Town, which Goertzen said, “is about 13 years return on investment.”

In terms of site maintenance, Goertzen noted the angled solar panels themselves do not require intensive upkeep.

“Generally, there’s not much maintenance required. One of the biggest things that you do have to do (for maintenance) as you have to do with any electronics, is maintain and inspect terminals annually,” which can be done in conjunction with any upgrades or maintenance work that has to be done here.

“We expect it will run as long as the equipment’s designed to run. It’s a 10-year warranty piece of equipment and hopefully, we’ll get 20 years out of it,” explained Goertzen.

Coalhurst’s mayor, Lyndsey Montina, was joined by other members of council and administration for the cord-cutting event on Feb. 15.

Montina explained the project was initiated by the Town’s previous council. “They started the project, then the current council applied for the grant.”

She said the official unveiling of the project, “is really exciting because this is part of our whole sustainability initiative. Sustainability is one of our pillars within (Coalhurst’s) strategic plan, and this is just one of the ways that we’re looking at how we can continue to be sustainable into the future.”

Montina added the project, “is just one of our things that we’re doing to move forward on the issue of sustainability for Coalhurst and continue to look at the different programs and funding that are out there and get involved with them.”

The solar array is projected to result in GHG reductions totalling 37.2 tonnes CO2e per year.

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