March 9, 2018

ERA’s first lessons learned event showcases Brooks Solar

In January 2018, Elemental Energy finished construction of its solar facility near Brooks, Alberta. ERA invested $15 million to accelerate the development of this project. The site spans 68 acres and includes 48,000 solar panels. Brooks is the first utility scale solar project in Western Canada; at 17 megawatts it can produce enough power for 3,000 homes and at peak, 15,000 homes.

In March 2018, approximately 200 people joined us for ERA’s first Lessons Learned event, a showcase of Brooks Solar. Elemental Energy, National Bank of Canada (project financer), the County of Newell, and representatives from the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) and Fortis spoke at the event. Our post-event survey proved the event provided valuable insight for the audience—many of whom were there to learn how they can accelerate their own solar projects in Alberta.

This innovative project demonstrates advantages and performance of large-scale solar power in the province. In addition to reducing GHG emissions, Brooks Solar delivered direct benefits to the community. Local labour and subtrades were engaged in a variety of roles, supporting economic development and long-term capacity building in the rapidly growing renewable energy sector.

Here is a short summary of learnings that were shared:

  • Location, location, location: This area’s sunny climate and proximity to several large transmission lines made it an ideal location for the renewable energy project.
  • The importance of community engagement: Scheduling regular meetings with community members to ensure any concerns over a project this size is addressed well in advance of the project is a critical step in the engagement process.
  • Technology: Alberta has difficult climate conditions; winter weather conditions, cold temperatures, and hail are all factors that can impact solar technology. Lessons were shared on how the inverters were configured and how the system was configured overall to maximize performance.
  • Financing: Speakers outlined what the banks require to get behind a project of this scale, including the assurance the power generated could be sold.
  • Contractors’ Installation Techniques: Take Alberta’s weather conditions into consideration when planning. Execute as much construction in summer as possible and pre-assemble equipment offsite to minimize onsite hours.
  • Timing: Elemental Energy started the construction in June 2017 and finished in December. This was a seven-month construction project and there were lots of learnings on how to de-risk a new technology and prepare for commissioning a solar plant in the middle of December.

ERA’s Lessons Learned Workshops are a way to share insights from experts with those who can benefit from knowledge translation. The goal is to accelerate technology adoption by sharing insights from project proponents and industry leaders. To learn about upcoming workshops, funding opportunities, success stories, and more, please subscribe to the ERA email newsletter.