SUSSEX– A New Brunswick company is helping build the province’s first solar power generating station.
NexGen, a renewable energy developer, is almost done phase one of a 500-panel solar power generating station for Frank’s Agriculture, a dairy farm in Studholm near Sussex.
Phase one, which will be operational by Christmas, will power 350 of those panels and produce 109 Megawatt-Hours of electricity. NexGen says this is the first solar energy project in the province to be directly connected to NB Power’s distribution system, making it the first solar power generation station in New Brunswick.
“It’s not as big as NB Power’s enormous power plants, but it’s officially certified as a power plant and is connected to the NB Power distribution system,” says Mark McAloon, NexGen’s CEO. “It’s going to offset tons of greenhouse gas emissions, and set a positive example for the town of success and the community.”
Phase two of the project, where the final 150 solar panels will be installed, will start in the spring. Once completed, the entire project will produce 177 Megawatt-Hours of electricity each year.
“To put that into perspective, that’s enough electricity to supply eight average homes continuously for the entire year,” he says. “Converting sunlight to electricity on larger scale projects now costs less than what you can buy it for from the utility.”
After helping build the province’s first certified net-zero home earlier this year, they were looking for other ways to help “trailblaze” in the solar industry in New Brunswick.
“It’s no secret that when you look at every other province and just about every other country around the world, they’re leaps and bounds ahead of us with solar,” says McAloon.
“That’s our prime mandate, to develop that technology, bring that technology to the province and help it grow. We know the only way we’re going to do that is if we can develop more case studies and have more people take that leadership role in the community to try it.”
ince being commissioned by Frank’s Agriculture for this project, NexGen realized there’s a strong interest in sustainable energy from the farming sector.
“What we’ve come to realize is that the farming community has a different perspective on long-term investment and the value of property and the value of land,” he says.
“Also, the farming community is really taxed with the revenue streams that seem to go down. For the dairy farmers, for example, they are making the same amount of money today as they did in 2011. So they either need to find ways of increasing their revenue or decreasing their expenses. Solar energy helps decrease everyone’s expenses.”
It will save the farm $1,200 a month in energy costs. Frank Jopp, the owner of Frank’s Agriculture, says the project will not only decrease expenses but provide the farm with another source of income.
“This solar project will offset all of the electricity our farm uses and will also provide us with a new source of revenue by selling this electricity back to NBPower,” says Jopp.
McAloon says the hope is that this project will not just show more farmers, but everyone that sustainable energy solutions are attainable in New Brunswick today.
“As long as I’ve been in this industry, certainly every organization that I talk to, they all say the same thing. We seem to have great intentions, there are all kinds of plans, but things just move very slowly,” he says. This project is significant for the fact that we’ve done it. We haven’t waited for anybody else to help us. We haven’t waited for government funding. We haven’t waited for someone else to work out the kinks. We’ve done it.
“It’s like an icebreaker. It’s a booster shot to the renewable energy economy in the province. It’s grossly needed when our neighbours and leaps and bounds ahead of us.”