A Kelowna company continues to investigate the potential for solar farms throughout the Southern Interior, including in the Kamloops area, with hopes of creating power for BC Hydro as early as 2022.
Sunfield Energy director Ron Percival told KTW six sites in the Southern Interior are under consideration, noting the best opportunity for solar development in the province is from Kamloops to Cache Creek to Princeton to Osoyoos, due to radiance values.
“In the northeast of B.C., they’ve got great wind power, great wind values. On the coast, they’ve got hydroelectric power, little hydroelectric operations everywhere,” Percival said.
“What we have in the Southern Interior is this potential for this new opportunity of solar generation. I think it’s unstoppable. I think it’s definitely, definitely the future.”
Only one solar farm is currently operating in British Columbia.
SunMine in Kimberley generates about enough energy annually to power 200 homes.
Though it remains early days, a proposed solar farm being investigated by Sunfield Energy near the Pennask Lake Road-Highway 5A intersection southeast of Merritt could produce up to 50 times that, enough to power between 200 to 10,000 homes per year.
The estimated investment varies greatly — from $3 million to $100 million.
Sunfield plans to install a solar energy and climate monitoring station at that location this fall, which would take samples every 10 seconds.
It needs one year of continuous ground observation data. The information will then be compared to nearly two decades worth of satellite data.
Confirming radiance, however, is only one piece of the puzzle.
Other studies are required — engineering, environmental and technical — and other factors include who uses the land, such as First Nations.
“That all takes time and it takes investment and all those things,” Percival said. “Gradually, you remove the uncertainties.”
Monitoring stations are already in place and providing insight at other sites.
A location near Highland Valley Copper Mine is “looking very good,” Percival said, though another near Monte Creek is “questionable.”
Percival said the company is assessing different opportunities, having been prospecting for five years.
In addition to putting in the time, Percival said it takes hundreds of thousands of dollars to conduct feasibility studies, in addition to proper permitting in excess of $1 million.
Capital costs are on top of all that, depending on the size of the project.
“We’re a big believer in solar,” Percival said.
“We think it’s just fabulous.”
Benefits he touted include no greenhouse gas emissions, no sound and limited visibility.
Percival also noted solar farms can be built with shared land usage, such as farming and beekeeping.
Asked when the area could see a solar farm, Percival said in the neighbourhood of 2022 to 2023, subject to BC Hydro taking on the projects.
“We haven’t crossed those bridges,” he said.