The EcoSmart Foundation is a not-for-profit Canadian corporation based in Vancouver, BC. Canada. EcoSmart develops activities and projects fostering technical solutions and innovations towards a sustainable economy. In the past five years, it has increasingly focused its efforts on renewable energy, in particular PV solar energy. EcoSmart operates out of Vancouver and is a governed by a board of directors, made up of volunteer members, from across the country, who represent research, government, and the private sector. EcoSmart has been primarily responsible for developing and incubating SunMine.
The organisation developed the concept, investigated the potential sites, calculated expected solar energy yield from satellite data, branded the name (SunMine and Mining the Sun), got Teck and Kimberley on-board, managed the on-site solar monitoring system, helped with public consultation, undertook an environmental assessment study, successfully applied to an additional 1 M$ grant from the BC Government (ICE), did the preliminary design, budget and financial analysis and managed the RFQ and RFP process that lead to the selection of an EPC contractor.
“Knowledge and experience gained from this innovative project will help develop local skills and make solar energy a viable option for B.C.’s generating portfolio. The solar energy potential in B.C. – and in particular, in the East Kootenay – is exceptional. Let’s put it to work.” Michel de Spot. President and CEO, EcoSmart
The City of Kimberley
Kimberley is a city of pioneers. After being one of the most important mining centres in Canada, Kimberley ventured into tourism, leading to the development of the local ski hill and construction of what is now one of Canada’s 10 top golf courses. Both of these projects have since been sold. The city was ready for something new when Michel de Spot, P.Eng., CEO of Vancouver’s EcoSmart Foundation, approached them in 2008, presenting the former Sullivan mine as the perfect site for a utility scale solar project. Enthusiastic about the concept from day one, the city organized a referendum at the next municipal election where 78% of the population showed their support to the project and authorized the city to borrow $2 million to get the project started. The city now owns and operates SunMine.
According to Kimberley Mayor Don McCormick, “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 BC, 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.”
Teck Resources is Canada’s largest diversified resource company, committed to responsible mining and mineral development. Teck’s main products are copper, metallurgical coal and zinc. Teck is strongly dedicated to sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR). In 2014, the “Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations“ list ranked Teck first of all mining companies worldwide and the second of all Canadian companies. Kimberley is the cradle of Teck where the company was created in the early 1900’s under the name of Cominco. Over 140 million tonnes of lead and zinc ore were extracted from the Sullivan Mine in a century of mining, as well as waste rock from the various shafts and mine tunnels drilled to access the ore body. The ore was processed in a huge concentrator (see Fig 1) from 1923 to 2001. In addition, a fertilizer plant (producing ammonium phosphate fertilizer) operated from 1953 to 1987, and a pig iron and steel plant operated for a time in the 1950s-60s using iron- bearing minerals found in the orebody. When the mine closed, Teck spent $70 million over 5 years to remove theses industries and reclaim the site. Today, the company continues to monitor and treat drainage water available. When contacted in 2008 by EcoSmart, Teck was extremely supportive. The mining company helped putting together a monitoring system that collected solar and weather data on site for about 1 1⁄2 year to confirm the original solar energy predictions calculated by EcoSmart from solar data. Teck agreed to lease part of the old Sullivan site to the city at no cost, a right-of-way and connection to their own sub-station and contributed another $2 million towards developing the project.
“SunMine is an innovative use of a former mine site and is an excellent example of a collaborative partnership supporting sustainable, vibrant communities. Our interest in SunMine also reflects Teck’s commitment to alternative sources of energy.” Don Lindsay, President and CEO, Teck.
BC Hydro signed a long-term energy purchase agreement (EPA) with the City of Kimberley, which is now the owner/operator of the solar plant. The tariff is about $110/MWh, indexed every year according to the CPI (consumer price index). SunMine is expected to produce 2GWh per year. The EPA will help paying back the City $2M loan in about 10 years. Critical to the success of the project were early meetings with BC Hydro (that provided a letter of support to ICE funding) and their guidance all along the lengthy interconnection / contracting process. ￼￼
Dina Matterson, program manager for BC Hydro’s Standing Offer program sees SunMine as not only the first larger-scale solar project to sign an agreement with BC Hydro, but also as the incredible story of a project that offers new life to a former contaminated mine site that has been fully reclaimed by Teck: “To create something green like a solar farm out of a remediated and reclaimed mining site, that’s a first in Canada,” says Matterson. It’s … the first solar project to be owned by a municipality, something Matterson says that we can expect to see more of in the future: “This will be the pioneer — other players will have the comfort to move forward with their own solar project once they see the success of this and they see that solar power can work in certain parts of B.C. We’ve heard from other organizations and regions that are interested in solar,” Matterson says. She adds “colleges, municipalities, and some First Nations across B.C. have all expressed interest in starting their own solar projects.”
“BC Hydro is very pleased that the innovative SunMine project has reached commercial operation and is now feeding power into the grid. We congratulate the hard-working teams who made this project a reality. SunMine was the first solar project to sign an electricity purchase agreement with BC Hydro, and now it is producing clean power for B.C.” said Janet Fraser, BC Hydro Senior Vice-President, Energy, Regulatory and Business Planning.
Ministry of Mines and Energy
The Innovative Clean Energy Fund (ICE) program was created to encourage the development of new sources of clean energy and technologies to help support local economies in communities across B.C. ICE provided a $1M fund to the project via EcoSmart.
“This is exactly the type of forward-thinking project the ICE Fund was created to help support,” said Minister of Mines and Energy Bill Bennett. “The City of Kimberley and the EcoSmart Foundation should be proud to be installing the first B.C. grid- connected solar plant on a brownfield mine site.” Bennett said how he appreciates the “synergy” involved in the project, with reclaimed mine land being used to house a modern energy project: “It has a very important, symbolic importance,” he said, suggesting it is onward and upward as technology will continue to improve, as long as governments and the private sector are willing to invest. “I think you will see this project grow in scope over the next few years.”
Columbia Basin Trust
The Columbia Basin Trust provided a $300,000 grant to complete the project.
“Congratulations to the City of Kimberley and all of the partners involved on the successful completion of this new community asset,” said Neil Muth, Columbia Basin Trust President and CEO. “We’re proud to be a part of helping Kimberley further its vision to be a sustainable and innovative city.”