SunMine heats up Kimberley’s economy

Tourism and land development are benefiting from Kimberley’s SunMine

Don McCormick (second from right) prepares to throw the ceremonial switch to activate the SunMine solar panels.

Don McCormick (second from right), mayor of Kimberley, B.C., prepares to throw a ceremonial switch to activate the SunMine solar panels. — Marie Milner photo

Just before Don McCormick, mayor of Kimberley, B.C., attended the annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention in September 2016, he told us that one of the items on the convention agenda was the presentation to the City of Kimberley of the Climate and Energy Action Award for Public Sector Collaboration. This is the sixth award Kimberley has received on behalf of its clean power superstar, the SunMine.

McCormick said that under then-mayor Jim Ogilvie, one of the original goals when the idea of the SunMine was new was to use it as a marketing strategy in rebranding Kimberley as a much more progressive community. As well as its clean energy benefits, SunMine has had an unexpected positive effect on Kimberley’s tourism.

“I don’t think anybody saw what was coming,” McCormick said. “The amount of visibility and PR we’ve gotten out of the SunMine has exceeded everybody’s expectations. We’ve received six awards, both provincial and national, and it just keeps on giving.”

SunMine has been a decided boon for Kimberley’s tourism—McCormick said that almost everybody who comes to town wants to have a tour of the mine. No firm statistics have been kept, but the public’s great interest in the SunMine is motivating them to visit Kimberley.

McCormick believes that generation of SunMine power creates the opportunity for long-term industrial development in Kimberley.

“At one megawatt, we don’t have anywhere near enough power to do that right now,” he said, “but we’re actively looking for partners to expand the mine. We’d actually consider selling it to someone with pockets deep enough to expand it to the extent that it could power industrial development in the area. Now that the SunMine has been in operation for a year, we’ve proven that it is a viable business, and we’re ready to move to the next stage.

“Renewable energy is really in its infancy as an industry. The challenge we have, and the vision we have for the SunMine, is making it more relevant than just selling power back to the BC Hydro grid.”

Marie Milner

Marie Milner is a writer and photographer for Kootenay Business magazine and several other publications. She appreciates the inspiration that she gets during her interviews and hopes to share that inspiration with you. View all of Marie Milner’s articles

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