The City of Kimberley is still looking for partners to invest in the SunMine. It is not looking to sell the solar project, says Mayor Don McCormick.
“The original plan was for us to sell our interest to generate cash for infrastructure,” he said. “The thought was the SunMine would still be there, there would just be a change in ownership.”
However, a few key factors have come to light that make a sale virtually impossible.
“The first factor is that we have a loan from the MFA (Municipal Finance Authority) and it is debenture based, which means the money was raised through the bond market. There is only one opportunity to pay off the loan and that’s at the ten year mark. So any money we got from a sale could only go into a reserve fund and make payments on the loan until the ten year mark. So there is no benefit to a sale.”
There has been some real interest in this region around solar projects. Several companies have requested licenses of occupation from the RDEk in order to collect data.
McCormick is all for that type of interest.
“If we can get three or four of these installations in, we create a cluster which then attracts business that services the solar industry. Southern Alberta is the next big area for solar development and there’s no reason why that area couldn’t be serviced from here. The real benefits are not the fields themselves but the products and services. That’s where the jobs and boost to the economy are.”
But there has also been some resistance developing.
“There are people concerned that solar farms are big and they will take up too much space. So some are concerned about a proliferation of solar fields.”
McCormick said he would certainly be surprised if the ALR would approve any type of solar development within the Land Reserve, but he says there is plenty of suitable land in the RDEK.
“There are brownfield sites that are very suitable. Old mills, gravel pits.”
McCormick says he hopes to be a champion for solar development in the region and that leads to another reason not to sell the SunMine.
“In order to be credible as a champion, you have to have a vested interest.”
McCormick says there has been interest in partnering on Kimberley’s SunMine, although he cannot divulge too much information at this time.
But it is important, to get the expansion going.
“We still have the 1 MW with BC Hydro. But it’s really important to expand as quickly as we can from a business case point of view, but also because if we don’t use the right to expand we could lose it.
“The City doesn’t have the money to expand it, so the idea is to retain our interest and partner with someone to expand it instead of selling it.”