Nelson, BC opens ​Canada's first solar garden

The 60-kilowatt Community Solar Garden, launched by Bullfrog Power and the City of Nelson. Image: Pembina Institute

Canada’s first solar garden officially opened in Nelson, B.C., on the banks of Kootenay Lake at the end of June.

The 60-kilowatt Community Solar Garden, launched by Bullfrog Power and the City of Nelson, might represent the future of how Canadians can support renewable energy projects in their community.

A solar garden is a centralized solar array installation where members of a community can subscribe to buy a portion of the solar generation. Subscribers to the Nelson project purchased their solar panels at an upfront cost of $945 per panel. The generated solar energy is then credited back annually to the subscriber’s electricity bills in proportion to their investment, and it’s expected all subscribers will recoup their initial cost and continue to save money through the garden’s lifespan.

This concept of virtual net-metering is “taking off across the United States and has huge potential to change how we develop solar projects in Canada,” says Ron Seftel, the chief executive officer of Bullfrog Power.

Virtual net-metering allows individuals and households to contribute to the generation of clean, pollution-free electricity without needing the space, money or time to manage a solar project alone. Bullfrog Power provided a pre-feasibility grant and financial support during the construction phase to ensure this project could be built in Canada, but it’s the community support that’s brought the solar garden to fruition.

“Bullfrog Power and the City of Nelson made important financial contributions to this project, but what makes the Nelson Community Solar Garden truly special is the collective commitment by the individual investors and groups from throughout the Nelson community to support clean energy in British Columbia,” says Alex Love, the general manager at Nelson Hydro.

For more on energy development trends across Canada, check out the latest edition of Oilweek.