NB Power along with partners Solaire Homes and Siemens Canada have launched a new project to build what will become New Brunswick’s first solar powered neighbourhood. Up to 100 highly energy efficient and “zero energy-ready” homes will be built in North Branch, which lies northeast of Moncton. It will be a test site for NB Power and Siemens’ smart grid project.

The North Branch homes will have the latest smart energy technologies, such as home energy management systems, rooftop solar panels and smart energy storage batteries.

The fully tech-outfitted homes are expected to range in price from $270,000 for a semi-detached to $400,000 for a single-family home with energy savings to cover extra costs in construction materials and technologies.

Solaire Homes president Paul Arsenault recently told the media that the project is a showcase for new energy technologies.

“We are, in effect, going to be a showcase for some of those new technologies – to prove them, to demonstrate them, to educate people as to how they work, and just be able to employ some of these technologies with the end result to improve the environment.”

The homes will use geothermal heat pumps, air-source heat pumps, and solar panels. The energy will then be stored in batteries in the homes.

A net-zero energy home is one that can produce as much energy as it consumes in the average year. To ensure that it contributes as much energy to the grid as it takes, it has to have the right technologies and design.

Brent Staeben, NB Power’s director for Smart Grid Atlantic, said Siemens is developing a nano-grid controller, which will manage the home energy use.

“It will, over time, understand how the home is using energy, how much it’s generating from solar, how much it can store,” he said. Staeben said the first phase of the project will begin with 20 homes.

The first test site was in Shediac, with nearly 500 existing homes participating. It also involved a solar farm and a battery storage system.

A third project related to the work underway in Shediac and North Branch is expected to be announced next year.