“Their excitement about the potential for solar energy grew the more they learned”

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Things are heating up at Saint John’s Social Enterprise Hub – it is now home to the largest solar project in the city. The 60-panel installation is expected to prevent about 15.6 tonnes of carbon pollution from entering the atmosphere each year by powering the Hub with solar power.

But the project has energized a lot more than just a building.

Students from the Saint John Learning Exchange GOALS program, and Outflow’s Catapult Construction, got some valuable and inspiration-sparking hands-on work experience through the project. By joining forces with NexGen Energy, they have been learning the basics of solar panels in the classroom, and assisting with the panel installation on the roof of the Hub.

“The youth were able to work directly alongside NexGen staff throughout the installation of the solar panels,” said GOALS program teacher, Kate Johnston.

“Their excitement about the potential for solar energy grew the more they learned.”

Students working together to complete Saint John’s largest solar installation

The project exposes youth to potential career paths that will likely be an asset in the future – as we continue to see the cost of renewable energy drop. Now completed, the project will also serve as a learning tool for others in the community.

Johnston said that several youth continued working with NexGen each day even after the set hours were completed – they didn’t want to miss out on any of the progress!

“Many of the youth expressed a desire to install solar panels on their future homes as a result of this project. The work has also inspired some participants to continue studying in order to pursue a future career in the renewable energy realm,” she told the Conservation Council.

Seth Asimakos, co-founder of the Learning Exchange, calls the solar project a “triple bottom line.” Not only has it provided invaluable on-the-job experience for youth, but it’s also going to be great for the hub’s finances, and for the environment.

“For us, really, the Hub is about innovation, taking risks, kind of moving, nudging the ball ahead a little bit,” Asimakos said in an interview with the Conservation Council.

He also said that they will be building a viewing deck with an interpretation plaque which explains how solar power works and how much energy is produced by each panel every year.

Completed solar installation ready to serve the Social Enterprise Hub!

Real-time solar production and energy production will also be available on the Hub’s website. It will show a history of solar production against weather patterns, and provide open data for further research on solar energy.

“I think the project is showing how we can partner, and that this is what we need to do in order to scale impact.”

Asimakos believes that although this is currently the biggest solar installation in Saint John, he doesn’t imagine it will stay the largest for very long. He hopes that by opening up the installation to the public, it will inspire local home and business owners to consider the benefits of solar power and renewable energy.

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