Millions laid out for new large scale community solar gardens in Nova Scotia

A solar panel installation seen on Sept. 30, 2011. (Ross D. Franklin / AP)

The Nova Scotia government is spending $7.5 million to construct the province's first large-scale community solar gardens to be built in Antigonish, Berwick and Mahone Bay.

The community solar gardens will allow utility customers who may not have the ability or means to install solar panels on their personal property, to benefit from renewable solar energy.

“This is a game changer. These projects will make the residents of Antigonish, Mahone Bay and Berwick big players in Nova Scotia’s clean energy future,” Premier Iain Rankin said in a release.

“Nova Scotia is a national leader in fighting climate change, and transitioning to more renewable energy sources, like a solar garden, is a prime example of how community-led projects can have a major positive impact on our environment.”

The new solar gardens will include:

  • a 2.1 megawatt solar garden in Antigonish that will provide three per cent of the town’s electricity use
  • a 1.9 megawatt facility in Mahone Bay that will account for about 16 per cent of the town’s electricity use
  • a 4.8 megawatt facility in Berwick that will account for about 15 per cent of the town’s electricity use

In a release, the province says the three towns aim to be the first net-zero emissions communities in Canada powered by 100 per cent renewable energy.

The solar gardens project will produce energy to power 1,000 homes annually and represent seven per cent of the utilities’ total electrical energy consumption.

The Alternative Resource Energy Authority will lead the project. It was founded in 2014 by Antigonish, Berwick and Mahone Bay to reduce their energy costs and environmental impact.

The authority owns and operates the 10-turbine 23.5 megawatt Ellershouse Wind Farm in Windsor-West Hants.

Construction on the solar gardens is expected to begin in the fall.

The federal government is spending $8.9 million to the community solar garden, while the municipalities are providing $6 million.

The total cost of the project is $22.4 million.