Nelson's Community Solar Garden

A community solar garden is a centralized solar array installation where members of the community can subscribe to buy a portion of the solar generation. Generation will be sold on a per panel basis. The solar energy that is generated by the garden is credited to the subscriber’s electricity bills in proportion to their investment.

Participation in the solar garden is available to Nelson Hydro customers on a voluntary basis. A contract agreement between the City of Nelson and Nelson Hydro customers will include terms and conditions that specify financing amounts, amortization periods, transfer options and rates. The project is being developed, marketed and managed through Nelson Hydro’s EcoSave Program.

The solar array will be installed at the Bonnington Generation Station ranging in size, from 50kW-100k. The solar installation will feed into the Nelson Hydro grid and would become part of Nelson Hydro’s capital assets. The participating customer would have no ownership rights to the solar system itself; it would be the right to the energy production from the solar array that they would be buying.

Conversation Cafe

On April 8th 2015, a conversation cafe was held to discuss the community solar garden project and assess the public's level of interest. The cafe was well attended, with over 90 people in the room and over 80 completed opinion polls.

The information that the was provided at the cafe and from the opinion polls will prove very valuable. View Solar Conversation Cafe Notes and Opinion Poll Results (PDF)

Next Steps as of July 2015

The Community Solar Garden Project Plan was presented to Nelson's City Council on June 15, 2015. The information was well received with some questions regarding final costs, locations and source of panels. After a review of several sites, the one that makes the most sense is the land near the Bonnington Generation Station. This site is accessible, near power poles and is city owned land. Once costs and buy-in models are finalized for the project, appropriate bylaws for Nelson Hydro will be amended. If City Council approves the bylaw amendments there will be an information session open to Nelson Hydro customers to learn about costs and program details, plus an opportunity to participate by committing to the presale of the project. There would be a time limited phase for presales, and if the reaches 75% by the deadline the project will go ahead. The proposed timeline for the costs and bylaw amendments is for late summer, so the information session may be as early as fall.

Interest in participating in the project remains high, daily requests are received from the community to be added to the interest list, so far there are over 250 names. It is great to see such a high level of interest.

Next Steps as of November 2015

The updated project plan was presented to city council on November 2nd. The public roll out will begin on November 17, 2015 at a pre-sale kick off event. The public will learn about the location, energy production estimates, buy in models, solar credit rates and costs. There will be a 4 week pre-sale phase in which 75% of a 50kW array must be pre-sold, this is approximately 150 panels. Depending on the interest, the project may expand to 100kW's, which is about 400 panels. The generation from the solar panels will be sold on a per panel basis, and the value of the solar credit will be based on current electricity rates for a 25 year term.

To learn more, attend the kick off event on November 17th, doors open at 6:30 p.m. and presentation begins at 7 p.m. with pre-sales to follow. Bring your cheque book to avoid credit/debit transaction fees.

Interest list remains high, with over 350 people on the list. Sales will be first come first serve.

Next Steps as of September, 2017 

Nelson’s Community Solar Garden was officially connected to the  Nelson Hydro grid in June 2017.  The system is fully subscribed with  investors varying from renters, homeowners, business owners, some of  Nelson’s Co ops, several churches, our local schools and the local  college.  These investors will be receiving a credit on their Nelson  Hydro electric bill once per year in proportion to their investment for  25 years.  This is a first of its kind in Canada, the project is similar  to Nelson Hydro’s net metering program and is referred to as virtual  net metering.

The systems energy production will be available  online once that part of the project has been completed.  And the  investors and some of their stories as to why they have invested in this  local community renewable energy project will be on display here too.   All coming soon, stay tuned.

Ribbon Cutting

Grand Opening June 24, 2017

Solar Drone Pic

Canada’s first Community Solar Garden.  Located just outside of Nelson, BC in Bonnington, above the Nelson Hydro Power Plant Generation Station.  Photo credit Luke Mori.

Solar Monitoring

Solar sensors were installed at Lakeside in June 2014 and Elephant Mountain in August 2014. The irradiance data that is collected is being used to validate energy production simulations that have been calculated for this area and will help to estimate potential energy production for the community solar garden.

View the solar graphs during various time periods in the Archive Center. On each of the graphs there is the clear sky theoretical measurement that shows the solar available if there were no clouds in the sky. This has been calculated using long term averages that use real weather data from this area. The clear sky theoretical used in the following graphs is the theoretical data calculated for the Lakeside location.

Solar monitoring from the beginning of installation June 2014 to September 2015.