EDMONTON -- Edmonton city council is debating a bylaw change that would allow a solar farm to be built in the southwest section of the river valley.

The proposed solar farm would be made up of 45,000 solar panels and take up 54 acres of fenced-off land south of the E. L. Smith Water Treatment Plant.

The use of the land for the solar farm is expected to be temporary as the water treatment plant is expected to eventually expand onto that section of land.

The solar farm would help provide power to the water treatment plant. According to EPCOR, the water treatment plant is the company’s second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

“The goals of the solar project are to achieve immediate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, to implement the city’s goal to generate new local sources of renewable electricity and to make the water treatment plant more self-sufficient and climate resilient,” said Audrey Cudrak with EPCOR.

The E. L. Smith Water Treatment Plant provides 65 per cent of all the water used in the greater Edmonton region, according to Cudrak.

In September, Enoch Cree Nation signed a memorandum of understanding with EPCOR to help move the project forward.

City administration is recommending the project go ahead, but there is some pushback from the community.

“The river valley, as it is right now, is protected as a ribbon of green, it’s a migration route for many birds and wildlife and I believe it should be kept intact,” said Jaynne Carr, one of 47 people who signed up to speak about the bylaw change.

The debate is expected to continue into the evening Tuesday, with the possibility of being carried over to Wednesday.

The City of Edmonton has contributed $2 million to the $30-million project.