Assessing the Climate Resilience of the City of Summerside’s Solar and Storage Integration Project

In 2019, the City of Summerside completed a climate change vulnerability and risk assessment using the Public Infrastructure Engineering Vulnerability Committee (PIEVC) Protocol. The goal of this assessment was to determine the impact of climate changes such as increased temperatures, precipitation, and sea level rise on the City’s microgrid project. The City of Summerside and Samsung Renewable Energy are developing a community microgrid to generate 33,000 MWh in solar photovoltaic (PV) energy per year. This would provide 62% green energy for the community and reduce reliance on New Brunswick’s power grid from 58.2% to 37.4%.

The PIEVC protocol was executed to assess the vulnerability of the microgrid and storage system to future climate impacts. Historical mean values for relevant climate parameters (temperature, precipitation as snow and rain, sea level rise, storm surges, solar radiation, and clouds) were identified and compared to future projections (2021-2050 and 2051-2080) for RCP 8.5 (high emissions scenario) in Summerside. To determine the risk of climate-infrastructure interactions, probability and consequence scores were assigned for 76 climate-infrastructure interactions. Probability scores were based on the likelihood of a climate parameter triggering an infrastructure threshold, where it was assumed that if the threshold was triggered, the infrastructure’s performance or productivity would be hindered. Only 13 interactions were deemed medium-high risk, and none were high risk. As the climate resilience assessment was completed before the final design was confirmed and equipment was selected, several recommendations were made to increase resilience against extreme temperature, heavy precipitation events, and sea level rise. As of summer 2022, construction is underway, and the system is expected to be fully operational by December 2022.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

PEI will face unique climate change impacts including increased temperatures and precipitation, sea level rise, and more frequent and intense storm surges and extreme weather events. To determine the vulnerability of the City of Summerside’s solar PV microgrid and battery storage system to the impacts of climate change, the PIEVC protocol was used. First, relevant climate parameters were identified based on expected vulnerability of the infrastructure. Climate parameters were further refined and assigned corresponding historical mean values (1976-2005) and/or historical trends to serve as a baseline. Future climate change projections for 2021-2050 and 2051-2080 for RCP 8.5, which is the worst-case business-as-usual emission scenario, were used. Projections obtained from Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium (PCIC) were downscaled from 24 general climate models from the CMIP5 dataset. The historical baseline climate parameters were compared to the future projections related to temperature, precipitation as rain and snow, sea level, solar radiation, and clouds to determine climate change trends for Summerside. Generally, Summerside will become warmer and wetter with +52-68 cm sea level rise and more intense storms by 2051-2080. To determine the impact of these trends on the project, infrastructure thresholds were developed based on professional judgement and design codes. If a climate parameter exceeded the determined infrastructure threshold, it indicated infrastructure performance or productivity would be affected. Finally, probability scores were assigned to indicate the probability that a climate parameter would trigger the infrastructure threshold.

Identifying Actions

The City of Summerside microgrid will be located on an 80-acre flat terrain west of Summerside and will consist of 67,184 PV modules and an energy storage system. Given the longevity of the infrastructure and the significant role it will play in supporting the community’s energy needs, it is important that the project is designed with the future in mind. Infrastructure Canada recently created the Climate Lens Assessment which includes a greenhouse gas mitigation assessment and a climate resilience assessment. This project addresses the resilience assessment component aimed to incorporate climate change impacts into the planning and design process of the project. The Public Infrastructure Engineering Vulnerability Committee (PIEVC) protocol was chosen to guide the climate resilience assessment. The intention of the assessment was to influence the final design and equipment selection before the infrastructure was built.


After climate parameters were identified and probability scores were assigned, a risk assessment was conducted. In this case, risk is defined as the product of the probability of occurrence of a negative event and of the level of severity of the consequence. The interaction between a climate parameter and infrastructure were assigned risk based on the product of their probability (likelihood of event triggering the infrastructure threshold) and severity score. Higher risks represented higher vulnerability to climate impacts and action required. The assessment identified 76 climate-infrastructure interactions; only 13 of those interactions were deemed medium-high risk and none were deemed high risk. The highest risks were related to:

  • Sea level rise flooding access to roads, the microgrid infrastructure, and overloading the drainage system
  • Extremely warm summer temperatures damaging electrical infrastructure
  • Significant precipitation (snow, rain, ice) and accumulation exceeding structural load of solar panels
  • Extreme precipitation events overloading drainage system of the storage system

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

Based on the PIEVC assessment, no high risks were identified and the City’s microgrid and storage system are considered to have a sufficient level of resilience to weather-related risks and climate for the longest time period assessed (35 years). Subsequently, for the medium-high risks identified there were several recommendations made:

  • Sea level rise: Relocating specific flood-prone infrastructure to higher ground and installing solar panels at a higher freeboard to reduce exposure to potential flooding.
  • Extremely warm temperatures: ensure electrical equipment can withstand future temperature extremes and implement protection if necessary. Ensure batteries are replaced when their lifespan is up.
  • Precipitation (snow and freezing rain): Implement snow removal maintenance, adapt design criteria to withstand larger structural loads, and consider an automatic on-site snow dump sequence.
  • Precipitation (rain): Adapt drainage system to projected precipitation levels, improve impermeability of infrastructure, and implement frequent monitoring.

Next Steps

Shortly after the climate resilience assessment was completed and construction was scheduled to begin, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed project implementation by approximately two years. As of summer 2022, construction is underway, and the infrastructure is expected to be operational by December 2022. Once the microgrid and storage system are constructed, the City of Summerside will be one step closer to achieving their goal of net zero emissions.