Solar panels, 576 of them, have been installed behind Cavendish Farms Wellness Centre in Montague and once electrical hookups are complete the 200 Kilowatt array will begin to transform the sun’s energy into electrical power for the rink and library.
The system’s first stage is on track to be connected to Maritime Electric’s grid by mid July, according to Three Rivers’ administration.
With completion of the project, the municipality anticipates savings of up to 75 per cent on electricity needed to maintain the rink and run the centre. At a total cost of around $500,000 the solar field is being funded with Gas Tax and Municipal Strategic Component money allocated by the former Town of Montague.
It is the second solar field Aspin Kemp & Associates (AKA) have erected in Kings County. A 100 Kilowatt array in AKA’s front field at the Pooles Corner facility is also online and performing well, said Marianne LeBlanc, Project Manager for the Wellness Centre installation. AKA expects solar power will provide most of the energy for its own fabricating and development work.
AKA technicians finished anchoring the last of the metal support racks in the field at the end of May, Ms LeBlanc said. “By Tuesday (June 4) they will have all the panels installed and begin the inside work setting up the transformers and the control panel.”
The final step in the first phase will be internal wiring to hook the solar system into the centre’s electrical room. Three Rivers issued a separate tender for the electrical work, valued at around $60,000.
AKA has designed and developed the energy management system and the company continues to focus on leading edge technology for long-term storage of power collected through the solar panels. Until the technology becomes available for high capacity storage of electrical power, the energy generated at the Wellness Centre will be channelled through Maritime Electric’s power grid, for use in the building or for future credits against energy bills.
The lightweight solar panels are also bifacial, Ms LeBlanc said. The front face is capable of producing 360 Watts per panel, and a 260 Watt capacity on the back will produce enough heat in winter to melt snow from the front of the panels. Keeping the face of the panels clear of snow and ice will allow additional solar gain in winter, she explained.
Once the system is operational, visitors to the Wellness Centre will be able to observe the sun’s power being harnessed, on a television monitor in the building.
“A TV in the lobby will hook up to the control panel so the public will be able to see how much energy is being produced at the moment,” Ms LeBlanc said. “All the solar fields have inverters to change the capacity but they also have data collectors on each panel, to do data analysis on each panel and to see how much solar gain is coming in.”
“A lot of people don’t know what the (centre’s) usage of power is, so it will be neat to see how much the sun can compensate for that usage,” Ms LeBlanc said.
AKA technicians will be able to read the same data remotely via an internet connection, which will also allow them to troubleshoot from the plant in some cases.
“This is a unique project for the municipal sector,” Roy Main, with the Town of Three Rivers, said. “The town is pioneering the approach to energy conservation with recreation facilities. Any arena in particular is a huge energy consumer.”
“The energy costs at the Wellness Centre are about $75,000 a year and energy savings should be in the magnitude of two-thirds, or about $50,000 a year. This would mean a payback of about 10 years.”
Mr Main estimated completion of the electrical work for at least one of the two meters by mid July. The second meter should be installed by September, with maximum capacity achieved before ice making season begins.