Canada's largest solar project under construction in Vulcan County

Vulcan county  needed a way to replace $8 million in unpaid business taxes after the energy industry slump, and they found the answer by turning their sights to a different type of energy: a $700 million solar project.

It's called Travers Solar and it's massive with a projected 1.3 million solar panels on 3300 acres of land east of Champion, Alta.

The project is in its early stages and being developed and managed by Calgary-based Greengate Power with funding from Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners.

The $700 million project - Canada's largest - will produce enough energy to power thousands of homes according to Dan Balaban, Greengate CEO.

"The capacity of the project is 465 mega watts AC, 691 mega watts DC," said Balaban. "Which is the technical term but it means power for more than 150,000 homes."

This is the second renewable energy project by Greengate in the area.

"Vulcan county is quietly becoming a renewable energy super power," said Balaban.

In 2014 it constructed what was at that time Canada's largest wind energy project called Black Spring Ridge.

"Having one of the largest wind projects in the country along with the largest solar project in the country, it's really going to showcase that Vulcan county is a prime location for renewables," said Nels Petersen, chief administrative officer of Vulcan County.

A number of local land owners in the area voluntarily signed up to be part of the green energy the program.

"One of the downfalls is there is some land being taken out of farm production," said Petersen. "But then at the same time for the producer that is willing to sign up, the revenue off that is guaranteed over the term of the contract whereas farming, it can certainly be hit and miss."

HARD HIT BY DOWNTURN

Petersen said the county has been hit hard by the downturn in oil and gas in the region.

"In the last four years the county has had to write off approximately $8 million dollars in unpaid taxes," said Petersen. "So to have a project like this that is in excess of $500 million coming into your community, it means a lot."

"The energy discussion in Canada has become way too polarized, it's been framed as oil and gas vs renewables, I believe it's an 'and'," said Balaban.

"Oil and gas and renewables and doing what we've been doing in oil country successfully for more than 14 years and this project specifically demonstrates that the future is very bright in Alberta."

Learn more about the project here: www.traverssolar.com