Controversial Epcor solar complex to be built in Edmonton's River Valley

Updated: Oct 22, 2020

After a 7-6 vote in favour, the Edmonton City Council has approved Epcor’s controversial project to build a 45,000 panel industrial solar complex in the River Valley. Councilors Tim Cartmell, Jon Dziadyk, Andrew Knack, Scott McKeen, Mike Nickel and Aaron Paquette voted against the proposal this Monday. The $25.9 million project will allow solar energy to power the nearby E.L. Smith Water Treatment Plant.

After having proposed the project last year, The Edmonton Journal reported how widespread public opposition forced Epcor’s hand in engaging with “concerned parties [and] indigenous communities” in decision-making.

Epcor has argued that there is no other alternative for the location of the proposed complex except the city’s scenic southwest recreational space. The Edmonton Journal also reported how concessions from Epcor to the Enoch Cree Nation, who had once opposed the project after archeological research had suggested that the proposed site was historically used for ceremonial purposes, have now pivoted in support of the utility company. The scaling back of the project’s size by two hectares and the simultaneous increase in area allocated for wildlife has also softened the opposition of detractors.

Epcor has insisted that the solar complex project will not jeopardize access to nearby green space and will allow the city to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

However, councilor Nickel voiced his concerns on Twitter, arguing that the project will set a precedent for newfound industrial development in the Valley.

Paquette equally took to social media to explain his opposition:

The Buffalo Tribune reached out to councilor Dziadyk for his own stance on the project.

“First and foremost, councilors have a duty to protect the River Valley. My constituents spoke loud and clear that they want to preserve this space,” he stated. Echoing similar concerns as councilor Nickel, he stated that “an industrial site here sets the precedent for additional non-compatible development near the river, and that should be discouraged...there are plenty of other locations that could be utilized to build a solar farm, such as in industrial parks.”

Councilor Nickel has started a petition to put the matter to a plebiscite in the next municipal election in 2021. It remains to be seen whether city council will acquiesce or not.

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