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Saint John Energy seeks developers for first-ever solar farm

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Saint John Energy is calling for developers interested in constructing the utility company’s first solar farm.

“This would be our first foray into solar,” says Glen Fillmore, executive director of growth and transformation with Saint John Energy. “We will be looking for partners who are experienced in this space so we will be looking to them to better understand and have solved for hat the challenges and opportunities are.”

The developer awarded the project would be responsible for finding a site and constructing the solar farm capable of producing five megawatts of electricity. Fillmore predicts it would have the capabilities to power 375 homes.

The energy it produces would be sold to Saint John Energy as part of a 25-year purchasing agreement, similar to the one signed with the owners and operators of the Burchill Wind Project. That project, which has been online for just over a year, supplies 15 per cent of Saint John’s power.

“We have certainly had our eye on solar for quite some time,” Fillmore notes. “But the costs associated with that had been quite high. But much like technology as a whole, technology and costs come down so we feel that time is right for us to explore this.”

The solar project would also help the utility company achieve its “Zero30 Initiative” to help reach carbon neutrality by 2030. Fillmore says there are three key pillars associated in succeeding in their goal, which includes understanding what the electricity demand over time will be, innovating with customers to help them achieve net zero if they choose to do so, as well as understanding what the potential mix of renewable energy generation would be.

“This project fits very nicely with that,” Fillmore says, adding they will only proceed with the development if there is a strong business case.

Saint John Energy is hopeful to award the project to a developer this fall and see construction begin in 2025. If all goes to plan, the site would be operation the following year.

The impact of a solar farm can be seen just a few hours away in Shediac, N.B., where an approximately 5,000-panel site managed by NB Power has helped fully power the town’s multipurpose centre and federal government’s pension centre.

Mayor Roger Caissie says the town also has a goal to get to net zero emissions in the near future, and hopes to further looking into how solar energy could power his community.

“It does two things, one is a diversity of electrical power generation and it’s renewable as well,” Caissie says. “It’s also local because Point Lepreau is quite far from Shediac of course but we still get Point Lepreau electricity coming to Shediac but it loses a lot in its transmission during that distance.

“If it’s local you don’t have to generate as much (power).”

Caissie adds the growth of the current solar farm in the town will be a key for the town in achieving net zero.

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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