KIMBERLEY, B.C.—A British Columbia town once home to Canada’s largest underground mine within city limits will soon be home to the largest solar installation in Canada west of Ontario.
Slated for the former Sullivan Mine site in Kimberley, B.C., the SunMine project will soon house 4,000 solar modules that will generate roughly two gigawatt hours of energy annually, or enough to power 200 B.C. homes.
While not a large project by today’s solar generation standards, the landmark SunMine marks not only the largest project of its kind in Western Canada, but also the first one to have an electricity purchase agreement with BC Hydro, selling energy directly to the province’s grid.
The SunMine is also the first solar project in B.C. to be owned by a municipality, with the City of Kimberley controlling it once it is complete.
Once owned by Teck Resources Ltd., the former Sullivan Mine was one of the largest lead-zinc mines in the world.
But after the site was reclaimed, Vancouver-based not-for-profit EcoSmart Foundation led the initiative to transform the former mine into a solar farm.
“To create something green like a solar farm out of a remediated and reclaimed mining site, that’s a first in Canada,” BC Hydro’s Dina Matterson said in a press release.
Teck chipped in $2 million, as well as the site itself, toward the $5.3-million cost of the SunMine project.
The 4,000 modules slated for the project will be mounted on 96 solar trackers that follow the sun’s movement, maximizing solar exposure in a region of B.C. that has more than 300 days of sunshine each year.
Electricity generated by the SunMine will be sold to the grid under BC Hydro’s Standing Offer Program.
“This will be the pioneer,” Matterson said of the SunMine’s groundbreaking approach as a large-scale, municipally-owned solar project.
“Other players will have the comfort to move forward with their own solar project once they see the success of this and they see that solar power can work in certain parts of B.C.”
According to Matterson, post-secondary institutions, municipalities and First Nations across the province have expressed interest in launching solar projects of a similar size and scope.
Conergy Inc. was selected as the prime contractor for the project, which is slated to begin operating in January 2015.