The Future is Bright: NS Power’s First Community Solar Garden

In June we announced our partnership with Natural Forces Solar to build our first community solar garden. The garden will be located in the Town of Amherst and will produce approximately 2700 MWh of electricity per year – enough to power about 240 homes or 700 battery powered electric vehicles. 

 The solar garden is one of four components of the Smart Grid Nova Scotia project – a four-year-Innovation Pilot Project (2020-2023) that is testing clean energy technologies and their benefits to customers and the electricity grid.

 We asked Debra McLellan, our project lead for community solar garden construction and planning, to explain a little more about the project and the benefits of community solar.

What is community solar?

“A community solar garden is a larger installation of solar panels that are mounted on the ground in one concentrated area. Because they are all in one place, there are efficiencies associated with the construction and operation of the site. Our garden in Amherst is in an industrial park where there is also a walking loop so people who are interested can come and see the solar site and watch as construction progresses. When it’s complete, the garden will be connected to our provincial electricity grid and will increase our overall renewable energy generation in the province. Community solar offers customers a chance to experience the benefits of solar without having the upfront cost or infrastructure to install solar panels on their home or business.”

Who uses a community solar garden?

“Participating customers from the community could be homeowners, renters, condo owners, businesses or schools. Anyone who is interested in sharing in the benefits of solar energy without needing to install solar panels on their home or business.”

What are the main benefits of our community solar garden?

“On a wider scale it’s really about increasing our overall renewable energy generation in the province. Because this is our first solar garden pilot project, it’s a small amount compared to wind and other sources today but it’s definitely going to add to our total renewables. Participating customers will have the benefit of solar without having to install solar panels on their home or business which makes the green energy transition accessible to a lot of different types of customers.”

 How effective is solar energy as a renewable resource in Nova Scotia?

“Nova Scotia is well known for our wind energy potential.  When you look at the types of weather systems we get, especially on the coast where there’s a lot of fog, solar panels might not be the first thing that comes to mind in terms of renewable projects.  This area in Amherst is actually a higher solar producing area so it will be interesting to see what kind of output we get. Part of what we’re testing is the most appropriate panels for the area and how much they will generate. This will help us to evaluate it for the future.”

How do I take part?

“To stay up to date on this project and to be notified when the program launches, customers can visit our website and join the community solar garden mailing list.”

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