A proposal to help power the E.L. Smith water treatment with a solar array is drawing criticism from environmentalists.

The proposed location is just south of the plant, and would need to be rezoned. Until 10 years ago, the land was agricultural.

Charlie Richmond of the Sierra Club of Canada says it’s the right project in the wrong location.

“There is only so much river valley, and every single new development eats a piece of it, and it’s all one way,” Richmond said.

EPCOR said they have heard the concerns and are ready to be a good steward of the land.  The size of the solar farm has been scaled back to increase the buffer between it and the river, and the company plans to restore the vegetation once construction is complete.

The 54-acre solar farm would feature 45,000 solar panels, generating enough energy to power about 20 per cent of the plant’s needs. 

 “We think we’ve presented a project that meets those concerns, that still allow preservation of a lot of the area that’s under this rezoning, but still allows us a diversity of uses in the river valley,” Craig Bonneville of EPCOR said.

The cost of the project is about $30 million, including $2 million from the city. At this point, EPCOR has spent about $4 million on research and development.

Edmonton City Council voted to postpone discussion on the solar farm until Tuesday afternoon.