A planned expansion of a nature park in Anjou has Montreal’s official opposition up in arms, saying the project could cause the city to miss a once-in-a-lifetime shot at sustainable energy.

On Tuesday, Ensemble Montreal leader Lionel Perez said that while city council approved the expansion of the Parc-Nature du Bois-d’Anjou in June, officials were unaware of a potential solar panel project at the time.

The proposed facility is the brainchild of Solargise, a European company specializing in clean energy.

“Your regular solar panel, which is made of plastic, has a very high level of degradation. The panel made by Solargise, which is completely made of glass, doesn’t have that degrading component so they have a way longer life expectancy,” said Pierre Langlois, director of National Public Affairs Montreal, the firm representing Solargize in Canada.

The proposed project would also see Solargise move its research facilities from Europe to Quebec.

“Their top priority is Quebec because of course the hydro rates in Quebec are so low compared to the us or other parts of Canada,” said Langlois.

Perez accused Mayor Valerie Plante’s administration of lacking transparency, saying the solar project should have been brought up for discussion.

“At no point did the administration share the knowledge that there were discussions with such project. There was no opportunity to have a debate,” he said.

According to Perez, the Anjou location is one of three potential sites for the solar panel facility, with others in Gatineau and Valleyfield.

“We’re going to trust Hydro-Quebec, which is saying these are the only three sites they can provide. In that context, for other strategic reasons, the firm has identified the Anjou golf lot as the best,” he said.

Langlois said Solargise requires 200 acres and 550 megawatts, “so when you put that in your site selection criteria – land, hydro power, proximity to the railroad and to the port – that narrows the type of land you can develop and that’s why Anjou fits all those criteria.”

Perez said that while the solar facility would require a $2-billion initial investment, it would provide roughly 1,000 jobs and a boost to Montreal’s tech sector. He added that fans of the nature park extension would also be pleased, as 30 per cent of the site would still be devoted to public park space.

“You have a model in terms of sustainable development, in terms of economic development, in terms of high-tech, in terms of being able to use our pool of university students,” said Perez.

After multiple requests for an interview, the city issued this statement:

“An in-depth analysis of the project has been launched by our economic development department, which works closely with the leaders of Solargise to assess not only their needs in terms of land, but also in terms of infrastructure, the investments required to implement their project and the anticipated spin-offs for Montreal.”

Solargise hopes to have a final decision from the city by the end of the summer, and if it is approved, aims to begin construction at the beginning of 2019.