Solar Power Pilot Project Launches at CF Chinook Centre in Calgary [Photos/Interview]

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An innovative solar power pilot project at CF Chinook Centre “has successfully addressed an exporting challenge affecting similar electricity grids across North America, paving the way for increased customer choice while building a lower carbon future,” say officials.

The project was a partnership between ENMAX Power and Cadillac Fairview. Construction began in early 2021 with funding from Natural Resources Canada and Alberta Innovates and it included the installation of 

1,900 solar photovoltaic panels atop CF Chinook Centre spanning 53,000 square feet, approximately the size of three professional hockey rinks.

CF Chinook Centre (Image: ENMAX Power)

“To date, it’s meeting expectations. So it is a long-term partnership and commitment between ENMAX, Chinook and Cadillac Fairview. Even though it’s a pilot project there is definitely a commitment to see this project be long term,” said Paige O’Neill, General Manager at CF Chinook Centre.

“It truly matches Cadillac Fairview’s leadership and push towards a low carbon economy. It’s definitely a priority that CF is committed to in reducing our carbon footprint not only through our own actions and goals but also always looking to being aligned with like-minded partners like ENMAX and the other partners in this initiative.”

O’Neill said Chinook Centre is expecting to produce about 900,000 kilowatt hours a year which represents almost 10 per cent of the electricity consumption of the entire mall.

“What that translates to is it mitigates about 650 tons of CO2 per year reduction which in turn it contributes to CF’s targets of reducing the operational carbon footprint by about 35 per cent by 2030,” she said. 

CF Chinook Centre (Image: ENMAX Power)
CF Chinook Centre (Image: ENMAX Power)

O’Neill said Cadillac Fairview has a number of initiatives through recycling and different environmental ventures in different malls across all its portfolio. 

“But right now it’s focused for Chinook and Calgary on this pilot initiative but CF is always working to partner with companies and different kinds of projects that can help with our sustainability goals,” she said. 

“The success of this pilot is an exciting step forward in enabling customers on our secondary network to adopt renewable energy options such as solar and battery storage,” said Jana Mosley, President ENMAX Power. “This innovative solution will give urban customers – both in Calgary and potentially across North America – more choice in how they generate and use electricity while maintaining a safe, reliable grid.” 

“This groundbreaking initiative marks an exciting turning point in Cadillac Fairview’s corporate sustainability journey and our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint,” said Karen Jalon, Vice President, Sustainability, Energy and Smart Technology, Cadillac Fairview. “Through our partnership with ENMAX, we’re able to make collaborative and impactful environmental change that will help to efficiently power neighbouring communities moving forward.”

CF Chinook Centre (Image: ENMAX Power)

Officials said the solar panels are generating electricity and exporting excess energy back to the grid – a first for specialized secondary networks which supply power to dense urban settings including downtown Calgary.

“Most parts of Calgary’s electrical system are capable of two-way power flow and customers are eligible for credits for electricity they export back to the grid. Up until now, that hasn’t been possible for customers in high-density areas like some shopping malls and downtown. That’s because they get their power from an interconnected web of transformers, known as a secondary network, which provides high reliability but wasn’t capable of exporting power,” said ENMAX.

ENMAX Power and CF announced their partnership in April 2021 as the first on-site customer implementation to test the two-way technology at CF Chinook Centre, Calgary’s largest retail complex. The network’s highly specialized hardware, software and communications systems were carefully modified to facilitate two-way power flow while maintaining system safety and reliability, said the utility company.

“ENMAX Power will continue monitoring and reviewing the results of the pilot this year with a goal to make the technology more available to customers on the secondary network going forward,” it said.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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