Summerland’s proposed solar and battery storage project will cost significantly more than earlier estimates.
The project, for a solar farm on Cartwright Mountain, was approved by Summerland council in July 2020, when it was passed by a 4-3 vote. The decision was reaffirmed in February 2021, also by a 4-3 vote.
At the time when the decision was made, the cost of the project was estimated at between $6 million and $7 million. It will have an estimated 3,200 solar panels and will have a lifespan of 35 years, while the storage batteries are expected to last 20 years. A housing development was also planned for the area.
However, at the Summerland council meeting on Nov. 22, Jeremy Storvold, Summerland’s director of utilities, presented new proposed estimates, with expected costs of $10,427,332 or $10,500,893, depending on which of two options was chosen.
So far the municipality has spent $163,485 on the project, with additional commitments of $197,525 for a total of $360,983.
“Price escalation resulting from a variety of factors has affected this project,” Storvold said. “Pandemic-induced supply chain issues, inflationary pressures and substantial increases to materials and supplies have introduced unanticipated price pressures from the market.”
Two other options were also presented. One to formally request a scope alteration, designed to be contained entirely within the existing budget parameters. The other was to pause the project and explore additional grant opportunities.
Brian Wilkey, a Summerland resident, told council he is concerned about the costs.
“When this project is over and done, we’ll be alarmed at how much money we’ve actually spent on this investment,” he said. “It’s just the wrong project for Summerland.”
Members of council also addressed the unexpected cost increases.
Coun. Doug Holmes said he does not want to budget for the unplanned increases for this project.
Coun. Erin Carlson said the project was put forward in order to strengthen Summerland’s electrical utility. She suggested changing the scope of the project.
Coun. Doug Patan said he could not support the first two options of increasing the cost of the project. He explained that two other projects, the new aquatic and recreation facility and improvements to Giants Head Rd., will also dip into municipal funds.
Coun. Erin Trainer suggested considering pocket solar farms around the community instead of setting up one large project.
Summerland mayor Toni Boot suggested looking for other funding partners for this project. Graham Statt, Summerland’s chief administrative officer, said this option is possible, but it would require additional time.
Summerland council opted for the third option, to request a scope alteration for the solar project, to fit with the existing budget parameters. This could involve reducing the solar portion of the project, reducing the battery component or a combination of the two.
The motion was carried unanimously.
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