There was a moment Tuesday afternoon when federal Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna and Egmont MP Bobby Morrissey shared a small victorious high-five.
McKenna had just wrapped up her speech in front of upwards of 200 people in Summerside’s Credit Union Place and if the mood of the room could have been diluted down into a physical form – then it was indeed a high-five.
Summerside had just announced the construction of a $68 million, 21-megawatt solar power farm and 10-megawatt battery storage system. It’s the second phase in an expansive multi-part partnership between the city and the Republic of Korea’s Samsung Renewable Energy.
It was the culmination of years of hard work from a line of people stretching from P.E.I. to South Korea and the mood in the room was celebratory.
The combination battery/solar farm will push the percentage of electricity Summerside gets from renewable sources up past 60 per cent.
“Today is another major step forward in our growing energy sector, as well as our innovation agenda,” said Summerside Mayor Basil Stewart.
“We will continue to aggressively pursue opportunities and look forward to working to promote the growth of Summerside and its place as a centre of innovation. This project has furthered our commitment to a greener community and taken us a step closer to energy independence.”
In terms of scale, the project consists of 65,000 solar panels and eight tractor-trailer sized batteries.
The panels will be installed on top of 80 acres off of Route 11. The land already belongs to the city as it is currently one of the city’s freshwater well fields. The batteries will be housed on land just off the well field, in order to minimize possible contamination should a problem occur.
Ground is expected to be broken on the project this spring and construction is expected to take upwards of 200 people and almost two years to complete.
Funding for the project is being split between the three levels of government. Including $26.3 million from the federal government, $21.9 million from the provincial government (the largest provincial investment in a municipal project ever on P.E.I.,) and about $20.5 million from the city.
Of the city’s contribution, about $3 million will come from general tax funds while the remainder will be financed. Once the farm is online the city expects to save at least $2 million per year in terms of money it would have otherwise had to spend on power from off-Island.
Samsung Renewable Energy President Edward Cho called the partnership between the company and the city a unique opportunity and a model for communities across North America.
“Summerside already has perfect conditions to embark itself as the fastest smart grid community in Canada,” said Cho.
“I believe other communities … are going to want to have this kind of system. Instead of depending on very expensive commercial power.”