A design concept for a proposed solar array operated by the District of Summerland. 

Canadian utilities giant ATCO Power has been selected to design and oversee construction of the Summerland Solar + Storage project.

The contract was signed earlier this month and announced publicly on Monday at a Summerland council meeting. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

“ATCO is themselves an electrical utility, and this provides valuable insight to the project, both from the short-term development perspective as well as our long-range operations and ownership of the project,” said sustainability/alternative energy co-ordinator Tami Rothery.

“ATCO has recently completed practically identical scopes of work for solar and storage projects in smaller communities, and their enthusiasm for this project really stood out in their proposal and subsequent vendor interviews.”

The $7-million project, which will use solar panels and batteries to generate and store electricity, should provide enough power to run 100 homes. It’s slated for a five-acre municipally owned lot at 13500 Prairie Valley Rd. at the base of Cartwright Mountain.

ATCO, which was among 12 companies to bid on the design work, will prepare the preliminary engineering specifications, site layout and other associated documents necessary to seek bids for construction this summer. ATCO will then help oversee construction, which must conclude by September 2023 for the district to cash in a $6-million grant it received for the project.

ATCO was founded in Alberta in 1947 to supply housing to remote work sites. In 1980, the company got into the utilities business and is today a giant in both fields.

The publicly traded firm in November 2020 handed over the keys to Canada’s largest off-grid solar project, a partnership with three First Nations that is expected to cover 25% of power needs in Fort Chipewyan, a community of 1,000 in northern Alberta.

Summerland council also heard Monday a hazardous materials assessment was completed last year at the solar site that resulted in the removal of 10,740 kilograms of scrap metal, 1,090 kg of inorganic asbestos, two pieces of asbestos-cement pipe and one piece of lead pipe.

Non-hazardous materials, including concrete, barbed wire and pavement, will be hauled away by district staff in the spring.