Today’s Poll

Sun shines on solar garden as Nelson Hydro looks to exceed minimum buy-in

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
January 3rd, 2016

A further allotment of solar panels is up for sale by the City of Nelson as the fledgling solar garden project continues to gather momentum.

The city’s solar garden has already met and now looks to exceed the number it needed to move ahead with the first phase of the groundbreaking municipal energy generating project.

The city’s EcoSave program coordinator, Carmen Proctor, confirmed the pre-sale phase had sold 210 panels by the time it closed Dec. 17, which means Nelson Hydro — the city’s utility company that is spearheading the project — sold out the 50 kilowatt array.

“I am very pleased with the positive response, and we are happy to announce that we can expand the array to 240 panels,” she said, which is approximately 60 kilowatts of energy production.

Proctor said 240 panels would “fully utilize” the one site at the Bonnington location.

The city’s Bonnington Generating Station lands were chosen as the solar garden site, where Nelson Hydro currently generates hydro electricity. The site did not pose acquisition challenges and could easily accommodate the larger array expected, with up to a 100-kilowatt array possible, said Proctor.

The next stage in the project will be receiving the bids for solar equipment — including panels, inverters and monitoring equipment. The request for proposal closed on Dec. 22.

The Community Solar Garden pre-sales period started Nov. 17 and ran through to Dec. 17. Nelson Hydro had set a target of 150 panels for pre-sales to generate enough capital for the program to move forward.

Last month Nelson Hydro general manager Alex Love said the highest cost to each customer was anticipated to be $923.45 per panel but now may be lower depending on the level of sales achieved. The pre-sales deposit fee was $500 per panel.

The anticipated total cost of the project was $224,689 for a 200-panel (50 kW) project. However, the 30 extra panels will be available until they are sold.

“When the system sells out we will start another interest list for those who may be interested in future projects,” said Proctor.

In the community solar garden — a centralized solar panel array installation — people can choose to subscribe to a portion of the solar array and receive a credit on their utility bill in proportion to investment, doing their part for the environment by using green energy.

This type of project makes solar accessible to those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to access it such as: renters; those with unsuitable rooftops; and those who cannot afford an installation on their own.

Funding for the project will be provided through Nelson Hydro ($25,000 in 2015 and an estimated $2,000 per year for maintenance), a Bullfrog Power contribution ($15,000) other possible funding sources, and the remaining amounts recovered through the customer charge for each panel.

This project will be the first of its kind in Canada, where the solar credit is returned on the customer’s electric bill, said Proctor.

The solar generation is sold on a per panel basis, and the customer is credited on their electricity bill in proportion to their investment for 25 years.

For the 50kW array, which is approximately 200 panels, it is estimated that the array could generate about 61,440 kWh per year.

The credit would be measured in kilowatt hours, based on the current electricity rate, so the value of the credit will increase as the rate goes up.

Twenty-five year contracts would be set up for customers to receive a solar credit on their Nelson Hydro bill on an annual basis in proportion to their investment.

The solar credit would be measured in kilowatt hours for the energy produced.

Nelson Hydro has already set aside a budget of $25,000 for the Community Solar Garden in the 2015 business plan.

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