A Halifax startup and a team of Nova Scotia Community College students are working together to help IKEA Canada assess what to do with the excess solar power produced at its Dartmouth location.

The retail outlet near Dartmouth Crossing is the Swedish company’s most sustainable location in Canada – often producing more solar energy than it can use. Unfortunately, it’s unable to return that excess power to the grid and is looking for ways to store the excess electricity.  

So ROCarbon Labs and NSCC are collaborating to assess the power data and find ways that the surplus can be used to further benefit the environment and IKEA.

“It is important to IKEA to use our resources to help improve the world around us,” Jason Lehman, the IKEA facilities manager overseeing the solar operation, said in a statement. “That was the goal when we designed this building and we are excited to learn more about how it performs. We are also excited about showing how large buildings like ours are able to sustainably contribute to the community beyond their primary purpose.”

IKEA’s Dartmouth outlet is certified gold by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, an internationally recognized green building certification system. It has the largest solar power system in Nova Scotia with the capacity to produce 838 kilowatt hours of direct current. However, the company is unable to feed excess power back to the grid.

During a recent tour of the IKEA facility, ROCarbon Labs CEO Megan McCarthy saw an opportunity to look deeper into the building's energy data. ROCarbon Labs is an energy management company, and McCarthy tapped into the NSCC research expertise to have its Applied Energy Research, or AER, team access IKEA’s real time energy data to help look for solutions.

The AER team is a lab that works to solve energy issues and encourage more sustainable solutions. It is now reviewing how IKEA’s surplus solar power can be harnessed and reused.

The team found that IKEA produces more solar power than it can consume 95 days a year.

“The full data set will enable NSCC students to identify and suggest carbon-reducing opportunities within the building, while also highlighting methods to eliminate solar curtailment,” said McCarthy. “This energy intelligence, paired with NSCC’s study, enables us to jointly tackle the problem of energy waste in our pursuit of a net-zero economy.” 

ROCarbon Labs, which provides end-to-end carbon-reduction solutions that eliminate energy waste in buildings, will provide its software platform, along with data analysis and training to support the students’ work. The team is considering several options for storing the excess energy.

“Like many buildings generating electricity with renewable energy, there are times the property produces more power than it uses,” said NSCC student intern Braham Farrokhzad. “Unlike small-scale projects, there’s real potential for options like hydrogen in larger scale operations like IKEA.”