Solar farm projects are ramping up in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, including three in small towns aiming to become the first net-zero communities in Canada powered completely by renewable energy.

Together the solar farms in Berwick, Mahone Bay and Antigonish will produce about 10 gigawatt hours of clean energy – enough energy to power 1,000 homes per year.

Construction on those three is set to begin this fall, with the total cost expected to be $22.5 million. The federal and provincial governments are joining the municipalities to cover the cost.

“We are thrilled to have all three levels of government investing together in the community solar gardens. This project highlights the unique leadership role that municipalities can play in the clean energy transition,” said Sean Fleming of the Alternative Resource Energy Authority, which will lead the projects.

The authority – formed by Antigonish, Berwick and Mahone Bay to reduce their energy costs and environmental impact – owns and operates the 10-turbine, 23.5 megawatt Ellershouse Wind Farm in Windsor-West Hants.

According to a provincial government press release, the three communities “aim to be the first net-zero emissions communities in Canada powered by 100 per cent renewable energy.”

Meanwhile, Nova Scotia Power has announced it is joining with Natural Forces Solar to develop its first community solar garden in Amherst, producing enough electricity to power about 240 homes. Already under construction, it is expected to be fully operational this fall.

“Our customers have been telling us they want a cleaner energy future and they want us to do our part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As well, the province has told us they want us to be 80 per cent renewable by 2030,” said Shawn Connell, director of customer solutions for Nova Scotia Power. “This project is an example of us taking that step forward and offering customers a different renewable energy project.”

As well, NB Power has engaged The Smart Energy Company, a Saint John-area firm, to help it develop the first utility-scale solar farm in Atlantic Canada, with more than 4,000 panels.

“We’re proud to have found a unique New Brunswick company to build the first community solar farm in the province,” said Keith Cronkhite, NB Power’s president and CEO. “Adding renewable energy to our grid is vital to lowering our greenhouse gas emissions as a province and finding the right partner at an affordable price…is an amazing outcome.”

Once installed, the facility in Shediac, N.B. will go through a period of testing and is expected to connect to the NB Power distribution grid in the town early in 2022. It will be the third, and largest, solar installation in Shediac this year as part of Smart Grid Atlantic.