As solar power surges to the forefront of Canadian energy, the Nibourgs of Halkirk decided to harness the energy from the sun and create a solar barn.
The Nibourgs live on a cow/calf farm north of Halkirk, with the farm being in the family since it was a homesteaded in 1904.
In 2013, when Clara Nibourg completed her certificate in renewable energies and conservation through Lakeland College online, the Nibourgs were quite sure that they had a perfect location.
Putting her faith and confidence in her husband Tony’s ability to install the system, they went ahead.
“We love the idea of generating electricity from the sun, because it is so simple and requires little to no maintenance once the system is installed,” said Clara Nibourg.
In Sept. 2013 they had installed the solar panels after about six months of planning and paperwork.
“Our system is a grid- tie system so there is really no difference than living with grid power other than the fact that some of our electricity comes from the sun,” said Nibourg.
The sun hits the solar panel and is converted to DC current.
Each panel has an inverter, which converts DC current to AC current.
“The electricity generated by the solar panels is first used to offset local loads in the house or farmyard, but if more power is generated, that can be used (as) the electricity is exported through a meter to the distribution grid,” added Nibourg. “When the system is not producing enough electricity to meet the demand, power is drawn from the grid, and we receive a micro-generation credit for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) that we send into the grid.”
This is paid out at the same rate as the Nibourgs pay for power that they buy from the grid.
“We had to decide where we wanted to put it and how big it should be and then we emailed several suppliers and got price quotes for supplying the materials,” said Nibourg. “We also had a site assessment done that confirmed that our location was ideal, with an orientation of almost due south and 97 per cent of the time being shade free.”
The system has exceeded their expectations and produces over 1,000 kWh per month, which is more than enough to run the farm.
“To date we have produced 37.8 MWh which is enough power to run two stadiums for a day, it has offset 26.1 tons of carbon or an equivalent or two acres of trees,” said Nibourg. “We really enjoy having our solar generating system and see little down side.”
The only maintenance that is occasionally required is brushing the snow off them, but it usually slides off on its own after a day.
This type of system now costs about $2.20 per watt before installation.
“So it costs less than a new vehicle and you do get some money back for the power that you send into the grid,” concluded Nibourg.