A’burg opens new $130 million Solar Park

By Joel Charron

Amherstburg is looking a little greener these days.

On one of the hottest days of the year, Capstone Infrastructure Corporation and SunPower Corporation celebrated the completion of the 20-megawatt solar park.

The solar park, which is located on 2nd Concession North, is one of the largest solar power installations in Canada and is expected to produce enough green electricity annually to power approximately 4,000 homes.

“The completion of the Amherstburg Solar Park marks an important milestone for Capstone Infrastructure as our first development project and our first solar power facility,” said Michael Bernstein, president and Chief executive officer of Capstone. “We are proud of the quality of the Amherstburg Solar Park and the contribution it will make to renewable energy in the Province of Ontario. We are also delighted to be part of the local community.”

Bernstein said the scorching hot Thursday morning served as a reminder of the importance of finding alternative energy to “help combat global warming” and to ensure that the electricity system is modern and reliable.

The Amherstburg Solar Park features SunPower’s high-efficiency solar photovoltaic panels, which generate up to 50 per cent more electricity than conventional solar panels and up to four times as much power as thin-film solar technology.

Amherstburg Deputy Mayor Ron Sutherland “flips the switch” to officially open the Amherstburg Solar Park as Capstone president/CEO Michael Bernstein and SunPower Managing Director Steve Vavrik look on.

The solar panels are installed on SunPower’s proprietary single-axis T20 Tracker system, which positions the panels to follow the sun during the day, increasing daily energy production by up to 30 per cent over conventional fixed-tilt installation.

Electricity generated by the facility will be sold to the Ontario Power Authority under the Ontario’s Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program at a guaranteed price for the next 20 years.

According to handouts given by the companies, the Amherstburg Solar Park contains 57,906 panels and 6,434 trackers.

Bernstein added that he was “very proud” that the project was completed “on time and under budget” while creating roughly 100 local jobs.

Deputy Mayor Ron Sutherland said that completing the project on time and under budget was “no small feat.”

“A project of this size and nature ($130 million) to come in under budget and basically on time is tremendous in my mind,” he said.

“We on council have seen projects with cost overrun and work order changes, to bring something of this magnitude on time, I commend you for it.”

Steve Vavrik, Managing Director of SunPower called the benefit of solar power compelling, safe, abundant and reliable.

“Solar parks produce energy on hot days, when peak power demand is at its highest and power is most expensive,” Vavrik said. “This solar park will produce clean, locally produced power at times when electricity systems  need it most.”

Vavrik said the Amherstburg Solar Park moved forward with the “strong collaboration” of others.

“We would like to thank the town of Amherstburg for having the vision to include clean energy in its future,” he said.

Vavrik also thanked the nearby residents of 2nd Concession.

“We thank them for their valuable input and feedback. We can only hope that this world class project feels a bit like their own,” said Vavrik.

Loris Collavino, owner of the land on which the solar park sit , said there were times when he thought the project would be “dead in the water” however is delighted they were able to move forward to complete everything.

“It’s the fruition of four years of challenges, four years of was it going to happen or was it not going to happen,” said Collavino. “I think they’ve done a fantastic job.”

Collavino added that there is approximately 160 acres of wetland by Canard River that is ready for rehabilitation and said that he plans to work with ERCA to make it happen.

Collavino also mentioned that the solar park project is good for Amherstburg because it “shows the diversity Amherstburg has locally” and thinks it will attract similar project to town.

“We’re building green,” he said.

With Collavino’s cousin as the general contractor and his children playing an active role in the process Collavino said this was truly a family affair.

“For our family, it’s a legacy,” said Collavino. “It’s very much a family affair.”

Collavino said the solar park on Concession 3 North should be opening in the next month or so.

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