Kimberley’s SunMine powers up
By Ian Cobb/e-KNOW
A touch of irony, plenty of thanks all-around and some good humour highlighted the official launch of SunMine today (July 27).
On a cloudy and slightly rainy day in the sunniest city in British Columbia, the switch was thrown to launch SunMine, B.C.’s first grid-connected solar facility.
The City of Kimberley hosted a gathering of project partners and local and visiting dignitaries at the SunMine at noon today.
With Mayor Don McCormick throwing a switch, the 1.05 MW (megawatt) solar project hummed to life and becomes commercially operational. As the 96 trackers holding 4,032 solar-cell modules moved into the best positions to receive sunlight, Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra began to play. Also known as the theme to the film 2001 Space Odyssey, the music brought out a variety chuckles and laughs from the roughly 50 people in attendance.
Along with being B.C.’s first mayor solar project, SunMine is also Canada’s largest project to use solar trackers.
SunMine consists of mounted on 96 trackers, which follow the suns movement, thereby maximizing solar exposure. The German-engineered trackers provide as much as 38% more energy than a fixed system. The trackers capitalize on the electricity generated during the morning and evening, peak demand times when BC Hydro has the greatest need for electricity and pays a premium for it.
Production data since June 22 confirms that the energy being generated by the SunMine is exceeding the modeled design potential.
“SunMine is a great example of the resiliency of our community. We are thriving and pursuing new and innovative directions. Although SunMine is the largest solar facility in B.C., it is relatively small. As the SunMine proves its potential, the City of Kimberley is looking to expand it and have already had several inquiries from prospective partners,” stated McCormick. He also noted the irony of a celebration at a solar project, located in the sunniest locale in B.C., being held under cloudy skies.
“SunMine is a symbol of Kimberley’s commitment to the environment. When Kimberley’s mineral resources were depleted, we took advantage of our solar potential and developed a new resource which is renewable,” said Scott Sommerville, Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Kimberley.
SunMine is supplying enough electricity to the BC Hydro grid to power approximately 200 homes.
“Innovative, private clean energy projects have helped power B.C. since the 1980s and are a cornerstone of B.C.’s energy policy,” said Kootenay East MLA and Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett. “The Sun Mine project has the potential to spur interest in development of other solar projects, bringing more jobs and economic benefits to communities across B.C.”
Teck provided use of the land and site infrastructure as well as a $2 million contribution towards the project. SunMine is located on Teck’s former Sullivan Mine site, which has been fully reclaimed.
“Participating in SunMine reflects both Teck’s commitment to supporting local communities, even after mining has ceased, and our focus on expanding the use of alternative energy,” said Don Lindsay, President and CEO of Teck. “We’re proud to be contributing to the long-term prosperity of Kimberley and commend the city for their entrepreneurial spirit.”
The SunMine project was conceived and supported by the Vancouver-based EcoSmart Foundation.
“I’m extremely pleased that SunMine’s initial operation confirms the expected performance benefits of the project’s innovative design,” said EcoSmart CEO Michel de Spot. “Solar energy is one of the fastest growing industries in North America and its potential in BC is exceptional. EcoSmart is proud to have collaborated with Teck and Kimberley on this innovative project.”
The City of Kimberley gratefully acknowledges the support of Columbia Basin Trust and the Southern Interior Development Initiative Trust and the province’s $1 million contribution through the Innovative Clean Energy Fund, McCormick told the gathering.
“Now it’s time to make hay while the sun shines. Now it’s my job to do something with it,” he added.
Speaking on behalf of the Columbia Basin Trust board, Rick Jensen stated, “Our staff and board are thrilled to have been able to help.”
The gathering also featured an official welcome to the Ktunaxa Territory by ?aqam Chief Jim Whitehead.
“I see another business is going to be blooming in the territory,” he said, adding, “We’re always open for partnerships in business.”
Free public tours of SunMine are being offered several times per day from July 31 to August 5.
To sign up for tours, visit www.sunmine.ca or call the Kimberley Visitor Centre at 778-481-1891.
More information on the project can be found at www.sunmine.ca.
Lead image: From left, Teck’s Don Lindsay; ?aqam Chief Jim Whitehead; Rick Jensen, CBT; Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett; Mayor Don McCormick at the switch and EcoSmart CEO Michel de Spot. Ian Cobb/e-KNOW photos