Nelson solar garden project grows

Nelson Hydro will start pre-selling solar panels at a public session on November 17.

Nelson Hydro will begin pre-selling solar units to customers at an information meeting Nov. 17.

Nelson Hydro’s plans for a solar garden in Nelson have moved along, and a pre-sale period will begin Nov. 17 at a public information session.

“We have 350 people on the interest list,” Hydro’s Carmen Proctor told city council recently. “Last week I got a phone call: ‘When can I sign on the dotted line?’ So there is a lot of interest.”

The solar garden will consist of an array of solar panels owned by Nelson Hydro on which residents can rent space for a 25-year period and be credited annually on their bill. The credit would go up as the price of power increases. For the planned 50kW array, which is approximately 200 panels, it’s estimated the system could generate about 61,440 kWh per year. It would be the solar energy production from the panels that the customer would be purchasing, not the panels themselves.

Nelson Hydro has chosen to locate the panels on its property near its Bonnington generating station.

Equipment is still being chosen according to price and to criteria in the Solar Score Card run by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, which has collected data on solar technology since 2009. Solar companies are ranked on the scorecard, and Nelson Hydro has decided to only accept bids from companies that score more than 70 out of 100. The average score of all companies ranked in the scorecard is 31.

The score card criteria include sustainability and social justice benchmarks such as emissions transparency, chemical reduction plan, workplace health and rights, supply chains, conflict materials, module toxicity, high value recycling, prison labour, biodiversity, water, energy and greenhouse gases.

Trina Solar, a multinational company based in China, has topped the Solar Score Card for the past three years with a score this year of 92. In second place is the American company SunPower.

The pre-sale period will last four weeks. Proctor said 75 per cent of total capacity, or about 150 panels, must be sold in the pre-sale period or the project will be put on hold for two years.

“If we sell more than [150 panels] in the four week pre-sale phase then the project will be larger and per-panel costs will be lower,” Proctor said.

The minimum purchase is one panel, and the maximum is ten until the last week of the pre-selling phase, after which there will be no maximum. Payment can be made up front or by an on-bill financing plan with Nelson Hydro. A $500 per panel deposit will be collected during the pre-selling phase.

The cost per panel is still being set, and depends on the project getting additional funding and on customer demand. The cost will be known prior to the information session and Proctor says it will not exceed $924 per panel.

Sales will be on a first-come-first-serve basis. “I expect a quick sell-out,” Proctor says. “You won’t want to miss it.”

The Nov. 17 information session will be held at the Best Western: doors at 6:30, presentation at 7, with pre-sales to follow.

Proctor says this project has caught the attention of other communities, other utilities, and the media, and she gets many requests for information and advice.

“Nelson is the envy of others,” she said.

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