VIDEO: Excitement heats up over electricity generating farm

Jordan Webber of Brownfield, Alta., says the 12 acre solar farm is expected to generate enough electricity to power 400 homes. | Mary MacArthur photo

BROWNFIELD, Alta. — Alberta’s first solar farm is set to be built and hooked to the power grid by the end of the year.

The proposed 12-acre farm is expected to generate one to two megawatts of electricity, enough to power 400 homes, said Jordan Webber, Starland County’s economic development officer.

“The people in the county are very excited,” said Webber, whose own 3,000 sq. foot home is powered by wind and solar energy and disconnected from the grid.

“They’ve been watching solar technology for a long time.”

The county was one of the first solar power pioneers in Alberta as it fought 10 years ago to reduce the unwieldy rules around micro-generation so that it could hook up its water pumping station.

Four years ago, it encouraged farmers to adopt solar technology, and now members of the community have formed the Alberta Solar Co-op, a new generation co-op to fund the energy project.

“This is a way everyone can get involved in Starland County and Alberta,” said Webber.

A crowd funding campaign to raise the initial capital for the project generated more than $31,000 from investors, including activist and author Naomi Klein.

Placing solar panels on every house and farm isn’t possible or affordable, but buying shares in the solar farm is a way to allow people to become involved and eventually reduce their power bills through virtual metering.

“This is an exciting opportunity for everyone within the region,” said Webber, who estimates the project will cost $6.8 million and be a model for similar solar farms across the province.

“We’re happy the solar farm is coming to Starland,” said county councilor Bob Sargent, who has adopted solar technology on his own farm.

“Most of the people in the county think it is a good investment.”

Webber said 80 percent of the money will likely come from investors’ underperforming Registered Retirement Savings Plans and Tax Free Savings Accounts.

The group is in the final stages of finding a location near an approved Atco distribution grid.

The share offering will continue until the end of summer.

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