The E.L. Smith Solar Farm does not have a lot of support from those running for Edmonton's next city council — but it's already under construction.
The Epcor project was approved by city council in October 2020, with the aim to build a roughly 51-acre solar farm adjacent to the E.L. Smith Water Treatment Plant.
Fifty-four candidates who answered the Taproot Survey question on the solar farm say they support solar power but don't like the location, which is in the river valley. Among those supporting the decision are four incumbents (Moe Banga, Tony Caterina, Sarah Hamilton, and Bev Esslinger), sticking by how they voted last year, along with a handful of others, including mayoral candidate Cheryll Watson.
The Edmonton River Valley Conservation Coalition (ERVCC) filed a legal challenge against council's decision, arguing that "this development should not happen at the expense of the river valley." The court date is on Nov. 19, where it will be determined if city council erred in not deeming the river valley location essential as per the North Saskatchewan River Valley area redevelopment plan.
"If we are successful in our judicial review in November, this issue could go back before the new mayor and city council in a new public hearing. If this happens, (they) have an opportunity to protect our river valley and vote that the project is not essential (there) and so cannot be approved for that location," ERVCC chair Kristine Kowalchuk told Taproot. "In other words, they would be requiring Epcor to put the solar farm somewhere else."
Despite the impending judicial review of council's rezoning decision, Epcor began construction in summer 2021 because it received all necessary city and provincial approvals to proceed. It expects the project to be finished in spring 2022.