City officials Mike Thususka and Greg Gaudet say Summerside is gaining a growing reputation as a green community, and that has attracted business attention. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Summerside, P.E.I., has made a significant stride towards energy self-sufficiency with the inauguration of Sunbank, a large solar farm.

Situated on a 30-hectare property that serves as the city’s well field and was previously undevelopable, Sunbank is equipped with over 48,000 solar panels. It is expected to generate around 21 megawatts of energy, covering an impressive 25% of the city’s electricity needs for its 15,000 residents.

Video Credit: Laura Meader for CBC P.E.I.

The Impact and Benefits of Sunbank

City officials, including Mike Thususka, Summerside’s director of economic development, and Greg Gaudet, the director of municipal services, underscore the project’s significance. They view it as not only the most extensive venture Summerside has embarked on to date but also as a critical step in gaining autonomy over the city’s energy supply. “What it means to residents is now we have green energy, we have some stability in where our energy comes from,” Thususka explained.

A distinctive feature of Sunbank is its large batteries, which have the capacity to store 10 megawatt hours of energy, equivalent to the daily consumption of 1,700 homes. This capability allows the city to utilize solar energy even during non-generating hours, advancing towards a zero-emissions status. The solar farm, which cost approximately $68 million, received funding from various sources, including the three levels of government, Samsung, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Additionally, the city, owning its power utility, adds a layer of self-sufficiency by reducing the reliance on external energy sources. Summerside’s commitment to the green movement and community decarbonization is further highlighted by its investment in energy security and conservation.

Summerside: A Model for Sustainable Energy

As the solar farm, fully operational by the end of December, marks a monumental achievement for the city, Summerside’s green energy reputation is significantly enhanced. “It’s good to see the finish line in the next month or so,” Gaudet remarked. The city, already producing over 65% of its energy through wind and solar, is becoming an attractive location for businesses that value sustainability.

Summerside officials emphasize that their focus extends beyond the economic benefits to include energy security. Although the impact on power rates is not yet discussed, the city anticipates considerable savings by reducing its reliance on off-Island power.

As Summerside becomes a model of success in Atlantic Canada, other municipalities are taking note of this groundbreaking project. Gaudet proudly stated, “For an Island to be able to create as low a footprint as we are for an electric utility, it’s quite an accomplishment.” This venture showcases Summerside’s firm commitment to a sustainable and low-carbon future.

Sofia Martimianakis
Sofia is a writer who has public sector and renewable energy industry experience. She holds an HBA from the University of Toronto and an MA in English Literature from the University of Waterloo.

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