A sea of thousands of solar panels could populate an area in Mahone Bay as the small South Shore town edges closer to having most of its population consuming renewable energy.
On July 8, federal, provincial and municipal governments announced funding commitments of $2.5 million, $2.1 million and approximately $1.7 million respectively toward a 1.9 megawatt facility estimated to account for 16 per cent of Mahone Bay's electricity use.
It's a big deal for a town that already gets 42 per cent of its electricity usage from the two megawatts of wind power transmitted from turbines in another county. In a news release, the province said Mahone Bay aims to be the first net-zero emissions community in Canada powered entirely by renewable energy.
Construction of a solar garden or farm, as they are known, could start this fall at the earliest and be finished next summer at the latest. Mayor David Devenne said it amounts to 4,200 panels, each measuring 1.8-by-1.2-metres in size.
Although the area near the Main Street wastewater treatment plant was identified as the likely site, earlier concepts presented to town council suggested it be on property near the corner of Pine Grove Street and Fauxburg Road, currently owned by a manufacturing company.
Devenne said it is a chance for citizens to reduce or stabilize power bills if they purchase panels. It is also considered an opportunity for power customers without the ability or means to install solar panels on their personal property to benefit from renewable, solar energy. "Our hope," Devenne told LighthouseNOW during a phone call, "is we sell them all."
Mahone Bay is one of three Nova Scotia towns that own a municipal clean energy corporation. The corporation already oversees Mahone Bay's wind energy abilities, which emanate from a wind farm in Hants County, and will manage its solar garden when operational.
"The bigger part of the project is going to be access to the electrical grid," Devenne explained of the solar aspect. "In order for us to get the electricity from the solar garden to substation, which is over by the Mahone Bay Centre, it means putting up enhanced powerline capabilities, basically down Pine Grove Street."
Public consultation will take place when it comes to that step, he said. Mahone Bay owns its own electrical utility.
Devenne likes the inexpensiveness and reliability of solar capacity. Since the garden, or farm, will be in town "there won't be any transmission fees to use the Nova Scotia Power grid to ship the electricity around; it will be consumed right here in town."
Meanwhile, the mayor said the town is working toward seeing more land added to the wind farm. The new breed of turbine has advanced since Mahone Bay's wind energy abilities went online a few years ago.
"The one new generator will produce what seven current ones will produce," Devenne said.