The NOREASTER – a modularized Solar Farm Kit for Farmers
These modular 10kWp building kits put harvesting the sun in the hands of the people able to milk it for all it’s worth.
Two years ago The Smart Energy Company created a Micro-Solar Farm Kit to help farmers reach Net-Zero by 2050. With the NOREASTER, a modularized solar farm kit designed in 10kWp sections, the Smart Energy team knew they had a tried and tested design on their hands.
The difficulty lay only in getting it off their hands. The Smart Energy team was ready to scale their business but, on a practical level, they wanted to do so without sending their construction team away for days at a time to do the install.
The kit could easily be shipped from their Quispamsis, New Brunswick home base, but questions about what the experience would be like for a farmer needed to be answered, and so, a pilot project was designed.
Understanding that farmers are generally nothing but resourceful, the Smart Energy team began looking for a farming partner who might be interested in constructing a micro-solar farm system on their regular farm using their own resources and with limited support.
The plan was to demonstrate that a farmer could assemble a 100kW solar farm on their side of the meter by simply following the instruction manual. The Smart team would provide technical oversight and guidance while the farmer took notes and gave feedback on every aspect of their NOREASTER build.
That’s where McCrea Farms, a well-respected farming business with deep roots in the community that date back to 1823, entered the picture.
The Smart Energy team met with the family who owns the award-winning dairy farm — located about 150 km away from their main office — and explained to them that they were looking to develop a micro-solar farm in a box. The goal was to market a solar farm kit similar to the barn kits readily available. Think a Lego set, but it generates power and you’re substantially less likely to end up with the last piece you needed to finish Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum permanently embedded in your foot.
The NOREASTER solar kit has a patent pending feature that allows smaller scale solar farms to be constructed in a modularized fashion without the need for large fences around the solar farm. This enables farmers and similar businesses to locate the solar farm in sections of areas that are not being used for other purposes — spaces along driveways, beside barns, lagoons, or retention ponds are fit for a kit.
Ideally, a farmer could complete about 95% of the project on their own, with the remaining 5% being completed by a qualified electrician. McCrea Farms were amenable to being the test farm; the kit was shipped, along with detailed instruction manuals, and the Smart Energy team was on hand to provide tech support.
Impressively, the build — the framing, solar modules and components — went according to plan, literally, and certified electricians stepped in to complete the work. Local authorities inspected the project and approved it for energising and so a game-changing solar farm was up and running for all to see, and not a moment too soon.
Organisations like the Dairy Farmers of Canada are setting aggressive targets for their members to reach Net-Zero and renewable energy is going to have to be a big component of that transition. Yet the Smart Energy team’s preliminary research found that solar energy was relatively expensive, difficult to adopt, and has not yet become mainstream in the Atlantic region when compared to other parts of the world.
Additionally, there was a lack of trust in solar energy since there were few developers in the Atlantic region offering solutions for a snowy, foggy and windy climate. Critically, the NOREASTER is optimised for exactly that climate and that’s been noticed.
The McCrea Farms project demonstrated to other farmers that solar energy is a viable renewable energy source in the Atlantic Region. It’s been a real-life working model, complete with data, since 2021.
This ability to collect and demonstrate data publicly over a long period of time in operation has been essential to determining the actual impact the solar farm production has had on the farm in terms of energy reduction and associated equivalent carbon reduction. The power of real time data versus theoretical modelling can’t be overstated.
It’s right there in black and white. The Smart Energy Company NOREASTER has enabled McCrea Farms to reach net-zero by producing over 130mWh of renewable electricity and offsetting 37 Tons eCO2.
Unsurprisingly, the NOREASTER was also the product chosen for the first utility scale (at 1.6MW) solar farm in NB as part of the Smart Grid Atlantic Project and it was also the product chosen to use at McCain’s Farm of the Future project.
With trust in the tried-and-true tech building, NOREASTER now accounts for more than 50% of the solar connected to the grid in New Brunswick along with 1,110 Tons eCO2 in reductions each year The Smart Energy Company’s NOREASTER is putting the DIY in getting energy from the sky.