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Local MLAs say proposed solar farm still far off but remain opposed

Local MLAs said a proposed large-scale solar panel farm in the East Kootenay is still far from becoming a reality but remain opposed to the idea. 

The company behind the plan, Enterprise Renewables Ltd., applied for Crown land usage to test the amount of sunlight at several different sites. 

The locations cover a combined total of almost 5,000 hectares in areas east of Kimberley, near Skookumchuck and southwest of Elko. 

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka said the proposal is still in the very early phases. 

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“They’re looking at different sites to see if there’s a case model that can be proven,” said Shypitka. “They need to engage with government to see if the application can go forward.” 

Shypitka said the project would need a referral from the Regional District of East Kootenay before the provincial government approves or denies the application. 

“There is still a lot of engagement to be done. This is all very preliminary,” said Shypitka. 

Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok said plenty of consultations will still be needed as well. 

“They have to seek public engagement, First Nations engagement. They have to look at the archeology, water courses, fish habitats and bird species,” said Clovechok. “We’re in the early stages of the discovery phase, but at this point, it’s certainly something that I, and the MLA for this area, would not support.” 

The proposed areas cover mostly grassland, which has local environmentalists concerned over the potential impacts on wildlife habitats. 

Shypitka said his constituents have contacted him about the potential solar farm. 

“Any time we have an impact on the land base, we take it pretty seriously in the Kootenays. It’s the reason a lot of us live here,” said Shypitka. “This is definitely one of those issues that people get fired up about.” 

Clovechok said residents in his riding have similar feelings. 

“I have not heard one positive comment about this happening,” said Clovechok. “The biggest concern that I’ve heard is about the species at risk in the area.” 

Previous: Solar farm feasability study raises concerns over local grasslands (Nov. 29, 2023) 

Clovechok agrees with locals who have raised concerns about the proposed locations. 

“There are other places where the panels can be placed, like on top of buildings. You don’t have to upend Crown land to do it,” said Clovechok. “I stand with my constituents on this one. I don’t believe this is a good idea and I certainly won’t be supporting it at this point.” 

Shypitka said it’s important to remember that the project is still in its very early stages. 

“Have faith in the process. There’s nothing nefarious here besides that it may be against something that people want to see. That will come through as the process goes on,” said Shypitka. “There’s a lot of hurdles this proponent will have to jump through and I’m glad that people are concerned.” 

There are no plans for construction currently, as the company has yet to decide on which, if any, of the locations are most appropriate. 

A public comment period is open until Sunday. You can find a link below. 

More: Enterprise Renewables Investigative Phase application 

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