Funding has been announced to build a new 21-megawat solar energy farm and storage facility in Summerside. When completed, the project will allow the city to meet 62 percent of its energy needs through renewable energy, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 21,000 tonnes per year.
“This project will create over 200 full-time jobs in Summerside during the 18 to 24 months of construction,” says Summerside Mayor Basil Stewart. “The project will increase salaries in the area to the tune of over $10 million. It will have indirect benefit to local businesses and services of over $7 million in additional spending, and bring in an additional $3.8 million of additional tax revenue for PEI.”
The Summerside Sunbank project is the result of collaboration between the City of Summerside, Samsung Renewable Energy Inc., and the provincial and federal governments.
Phase 1 of the energy project installed 1,548 solar panels and a battery at Credit Union Place in 2017. Soon, Phase II will be rolled out on about 80 acres of city-owned land off Route 11 near Linkletter. More than 65,000 solar panels generating 21 megawatts of electricity and about seven tractor-trailer sized batteries will be installed. The batteries will store enough energy to power at least 1,000 homes.
“There will be three to six months of preplanning, environmental assessments, public consultation, and construction approvals,” says Michael Thususka, Director of Economic Development for the City of Summerside.
“Although the City of Summerside will be hiring some senior level staff, they will not be directly involved in hiring construction staff. Businesses wanting to participate in this project will submit bids for the work. The winning contractors will then begin to gear up their employment numbers.
“With a large project like this, there is the potential for Islanders living away to come back to work on it. A lot of skilled people have gone to projects out west, and this big project will be an opportunity for local businesses to attract and grow their staff.”
By late summer 2020, they hope to start construction of the access roads, installation of fencing, and site preparation. “Project construction is expected to start in late August or early September, or if delayed, will begin in May 2021,” says Michael.
“It will take a while to procure some of the equipment,” says Greg Gaudet, Director of Municipal Services in Summerside, and an Electrical Engineer. “Utility transformers can take a year to be constructed and delivered.” The entire project will take about 18 months to complete, and is projected to be online by May 2022.
“The project will require professional Engineers, Legal, Archeological and Environmental specialists, and Project Managers, who will be selected and hired by the City of Summerside,” says Greg. “The city will also engage an engineering firm to design the project, and will then put it out to tender.
“Contractors chosen during the tendering process will hire the construction staff they need, such as Road Builders, Foundation Builders, Heavy Duty Machinery Operators, Engineers, Electricians, Labourers, and Manufacturers and Installers for the racks holding the solar panels. The system will also require commissioning and testing by specialists. There will also be electrical utility work to connect power lines to the new system.”
“Based on our experience with a project this size, local employers will have to ramp up their employment levels,” says Michael. “Summerside’s role in contributing to local prosperity is to encourage the use of local skills. Employers will bring in some construction specialists, but the construction of foundations and other work will be sourced locally.”
“This project will help local businesses grow their knowledge and put it to use,” says Michael. “In the future I can see the construction of many more renewable energy projects here on PEI. We hope to partner with local businesses and educational institutions. The ultimate goal is for companies from off-Island to participate in some kind of knowledge transfer, because this is project that has the potential to change what is happening on PEI.
“Summerside had a growth spurt last year, and we anticipate a lot more in the pipeline going forward. This project offers long-term stability of two to three years of work, and hopefully people will see Summerside and PEI as a place to find gainful long-term employment.
“We have made a commitment to our funding partners that we would do our best to maximize the impact of this project for Summerside and PEI in terms of employment growth and knowledge transfer,” says Michael.
“PEI has other big projects coming up, such as the Canada Games in 2023. There will be large opportunities for construction companies.”
The City of Summerside will hire three to five people to operate and maintain the utility after it is constructed. Potentially, there would be a Plant Manager and a few people to do general upkeep, routine facility maintenance, and control. Larger-scale batch testing, maintenance, and landscaping will be contracted out to local firms.
For more about the City of Summerside, visit www.summerside.ca.
For a list of job opportunities in Summerside, visit www.bigpossibilities.ca/news-newsletters/look-whos-hiring-in-summerside.