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N.B. Tests Solar Power Potential On Schools And Educates Next Generation Of Energy Consumers

The solar panels on CCNB Bathurst campus. (Image: Submitted)

SAINT JOHN– A New Brunswick green energy company is helping the province’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure explore the options of green energy.

NexGen won a tender late last year to install solar panels on six schools across the province. The pilot projects are part of the department’s renewable energy program as pilot projects to establish a baseline for installation costs and performance of operating such systems on its buildings.

Solar installations are being placed on Hampton High School, Polyvalente Roland-Pépin in Campbellton; CCNB in Bathurst, NBCC in Moncton; Fundy High School in St. George and École Les Éclaireurs in Fredericton.

NexGen is about halfway through installing all the solar panels to the schools. The installations range from wall rays to rooftop rays. All installations use the same 400 watts LG solar panels are the same, but each installation will have different components such as batteries and storage systems.

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Though the purpose of the project is to help the government department learn more about using solar energy, for NexGen, there’s a big learning component to it too.

“What what we’re hoping to do is some case studies, probably in a year’s time, because we will have the data to see what’s been going on with each school as time goes by,” says Sarah Barrie, chief operating officer of NexGen. “It’s very preliminary right now, but most of these different inverters, they all have software to actually track and see.”

Since the project focuses on schools, there’s also a big opportunity for students to learn as well. NexGen hopes to help facilitate workshops with teachers.

“The nice thing when you’re putting these types of arrays or anything like this onto a school is you got young minds. You got people who are going to be growing with this and learning about this because we need that for the future,” says Barrie.

The solar panels on Hampton High School (Image: Submitted)

“It’s important for students to learn that we don’t need to be wasteful. We can use what we have. I think the minds of today are very mindful of being good to the earth and their carbon footprint. I think it’s going in that direction so it’s awesome New Brunswick has finally taken that step, especially with students. They could have chosen any other buildings, but they chose schools, and that’s fantastic.”

NB Power is helping with the project by providing inverters, which change the DC (direct current) to AC (alternating current) so it can be used in their schools. Spokesperson Marc Belliveau says the utility is also looking to learn from this project too.

“It gives us an opportunity to test the inter-connectivity of the solar projects with our grid, find out which inverters work best, et cetera, for future use as solar products will become more and more popular in the years ahead,” he said in an email. “We are currently testing four types of inverters. In addition, we will be testing power-storage batteries at two locations.”

NexGen has taken part several notable solar projects over the last several years, including helping with the New Brunswick’s first certified net-zero home and building the province’s first solar power generating station on a dairy farm. But Barrie says this is the biggest project the company has taken on to date, and a rewarding one too.

“It’s not just about installing solar, it’s about everything behind it and what’s able to do and what it’s able to save,” said Barrie. “As a company. we really want people to be educated and informed.”

All the solar installations are expected to be completed by April.