Sask. ag equipment manufacturer goes solar

Maker of Case IH, New Holland and Flexi-Coil brands says it is reducing its carbon foot print while cutting electrical costs

CNH Industrial in Saskatoon is home to the largest solar energy project in the province.

More than 1,000 gleaming blue-black panels soak up the sun outside the manufacturer’s facility, where tillage, seeding and harvesting equipment is made under the Case IH, New Holland and Flexi-Coil brands.

“This project will yield 331 kilowatts of power for the plant. This is equal to about eight percent of our energy consumption and will reduce our carbon footprint by 289 tons, which is the equivalent to about 70 residential homes,” said Seth L’Hoir, plant manager at CNH Industrial.

The new solar array is a partnership between CNH and the Saskatchewan Environmental Society (SES) Solar Co-operative.

L’Hoir made the announcement along with Michael Nemeth, vice-president of SES Solar Co-op, and David Anderson, vice-president of business development at MiEnergy.

The SES Solar Co-op is a volunteer-run organization and the first renewable energy co-op in the province.

It operates by inviting the community to invest in solar developments by purchasing preferred shares in its ongoing share offering.

“The SES solar co-op has come a long way since it began in 2015. It has now built its seventh and largest solar project with CNH industrial,” said Nemeth.

The panels bought for the CNH project reside at the company’s 71st Street location, producing renewable energy for their operations while generating a return for SES Solar Co-op shareholders through lease payments over the next 25 years.

“This is a privately funded capital project through SES, which we lease off of them. So we provide the land and the power demand, and then they provided the equipment to provide the clean energy gate,” said L’Hoir.

For about a decade, he said CNH has been focused on lowering their power consumption and costs.

“Being able to generate some of the electricity needed at our site for zero carbon emission source is a step in the right direction. Our site has already successfully reduced electrical consumption by 25 percent. And this new solar installation will help supplement our plants ongoing power needs with the zero carbon energy source,” he said.

More than 1,000 bi-facial solar modules are mounted on a racking system that used 100 I-beam piles as a foundation, each one driven well below the frost line. Bi-facial modules are a new technology that produce solar power from both sides of the panel. | William DeKay photo

The 400 kilowatt system of bi-facial solar modules are mounted on a racking system that used 100 I-beam piles as a foundation.

Bi-facial modules are a new technology that produce solar power from both sides of the panel. Whereas traditional opaque-backsheeted panels are monofacial, bifacial modules expose both the front and backside of the solar cells.

“That boosts the overall energy production by five percent compared to a typical monofacial solar panel. The grass type plains of Saskatchewan give a pretty good reflective effect and obviously we have good winter reflection as well,” said Anderson. Direct current (DC) energy is collected and transmitted to inverters that converts it to useable AC energy. The AC cabling runs underground through a directional bore to the manufacturing facility.

Another feature of the project is behind the meter technology, which uses some unique control systems.

“This is one of the first behind the meter projects in the SaskPower region, which means there’s no energy that can be exported to the grid. All the energy is used on site and there’s special zero export controls in place to ensure nothing goes back to the utility grid, even in the case of more production here,” said Anderson.

In the 21 years that MiEnergy has been in business, he said the company has completed many solar projects for farmers across Western Canada.

Most farm installations are ground mounted systems tied to the electric grid in order to take advantage of net metering programs, which feed energy back to the grid for credit or use it directly during daylight hours.

“That farm market is an ideal spot to produce your own clean energy, much cheaper than you can buy it from the utility. Over the last 10 years, our ag farm market has been the strongest part of our business for solar,” he said.

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