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May 17 (Renewables Now) – The City of Medicine Hat in Alberta, Canada has decided not to continue operating the 1-MW concentrated solar thermal (CST) demonstration system it installed five years ago.

The city now has to determine what to do with the facility. In a press release on Monday it mentioned the possibility of establishing a future innovation park for renewables at the site. The Energy and Utilities Division is to present its options and recommendations for the solar unit and site by this autumn.

The demonstration project’s goal was to show how CST would perform in southern Alberta and how it could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in power generation. Construction started in 2013 and the parabolic trough collector field was put online the following year. It was built near the 203-MW natural gas-fired municipal power plant, later expanded to 246 MW, and fed solar steam to the facility.

Phil Turnbull, chairman of Medicine Hat’s utility committee, told the Calgary Herald the CST system’s unreliable contribution could not justify the cost of maintaining it.

When the project started, the price of natural gas was much higher than today and trying to substitute even a small portion of it with solar energy made more sense. The project was the first of its kind in Canada and also the first CST demo in a northern climate. Medicine Hat was selected for the project because it is one of the sunniest places in Canada, with 330 days of sunshine per year.

“The five years of R&D operations have provided invaluable information regarding the feasibility of CST at 50 degrees north latitude in Canada. Having served this purpose and given the cost for continued operation, it was deemed best to lay it up at this time,” says the press release by the city.

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