Questions are being raised regarding a 100-megawatt solar project coming to Estevan.
RM of Estevan Reeve Jason LeBlanc said he likes the idea of creating jobs with the project and adding to Estevan's energy portfolio. But he has a few concerns.
"SaskPower and the mines combined have approximately 47,000 acres already in the RM. And I don't think that it's a good idea to take food-producing land and turn it into solar panels."
LeBlanc wasn't certain how much of the land owned between SaskPower and the mines is unused, but said it's "in the thousands" of acres that were previously purchased for coal that hasn't been used or mined.
"When you add in the additional land that's been reclaimed, there are thousands of acres that they could choose to put this project on."
The project will consume seven quarters of land, according to LeBlanc. The RM hasn't heard yet specifics on where the project will be situated.
"We're in an area that can provide base power; load power. We don't need to have the solar panel system built here, if in fact that's what they want to do. We're in the heart of the power business down here."
LeBlanc said he wants the company that takes on the project to be required to restore the land if the solar project is shuttered at some point.
"[Oil companies] have to be bonded to look after orphaned wells. If there's a well that becomes orphaned, they pay for the removal and the clean-up of it. I want to be assured that that is in place."
He said energy priorities seem change over time.
"The pendulum always seems to swing if you look back through history. If these panels get built and something changes, and all of a sudden they're not being used, well that land is virtually useless. I want something in place that's documented that they will remove and return that land back to useable agricultural-producing land."
Another concern LeBlanc has is how a noxious weed problem that's been a challenge for the RM will be handled.
"One of [the weeds] is absinthe wormwood. And that weed is taking over many, many acres and it's deeming it useless."
LeBlanc said he wants "assurance" that the weeds will be taken care of so they don't continue to spread and render more land useless.
Estevan Mayor Roy Ludwig likes that it will bring jobs to the area, but shared LeBlanc's sentiment on land selection.
Ludwig anticipates construction of the project will create at least 50 jobs, and maintenance of the farm will require five to 10.
"[The land choice] is disappointing," he said. "We were hoping that they would put it on [Saskatchewan Power Corporation] land because... we have some of the best ag land in the world here and it's unfortunate to see seven quarters of that go to solar panels when, in my opinion it could have, with a little bit of effort, been put on SPC land."
Ludwig plans to continue advocating for carbon capture sequestration.
"We have to have a mixed basket of power production, some solar, some wind, some hydro water up north and... we would like to see more CO2 sequestration at Boundary Dam and another unit moved over into the clean coal, which would be Unit 6.
"We still have an opportunity for green energy with coal-fired power plants with the clean coal and we have been successful with the clean coal unit that we have got."
"Everybody always wants solar panels and windmills, but just not in my backyard," said LeBlanc. "It's the same old story that everybody always wants this better, cleaner, greener air. But not in their backyard. Well now we're getting it put into our backyard, and I do have concerns with who's going to look after it."
DiscoverEstevan has reached out to SaskPower regarding the concerns brought up in this article.