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  • Norfolk Farms

Solar Panels Provide Lots of Barn Space for Robert Lee

Updated: May 10, 2023

About 12 years ago Robert Lee saw an ad from Hay Solar which offered a free barn to farmers if the company could maintain rooftop solar panels for a period of 20 years. Robert sent for information about the deal and took it to his lawyer to check out. All seemed ok.

Robert Lee stands by a loaded hay wagon inside the barn.

The original plan was for an American company to do the building, but this was refused; Canadian laws required a Canadian contractor to do the job. It took four years for the project to actually become reality about seven years ago.

Solar Panels
Half of Robert Lee’s barn roof, showing 17 columns, each with 20 or more solar panels.

The barn is huge – 80 feet wide by 250 feet long. It is 40 feet high at the peak, 25 feet on the north side and slopes to just nine feet along the south edge. The door is 24 feet wide and 16 feet high. The entire roof is covered by solar panels – 17 columns of panels on each half of the roof. After the 20 years is up (13 to go), Robert will own the panels outright. It is expected that they will only produce 60% of the power they did when new, but that is still a good amount.

Robert expects he will have to replace a number of switches that connect them to the grid, and that will be expensive.

The barn is very useful – no longer do hay wagons need to be rapidly tarped if a sudden shower happens; wagons fit inside just fine. There is ample room for hay storage. Machinery and horse drawn equipment have a home inside and the space even doubles as a training area for Robert’s Percheron colts. He has even considered adding a loft to part of the barn, storing hay there, and having a few cattle below. So far, this has been a good deal for Robert.

Robert Lee, Still Horsing Around

Robert Lee has been horsing around for a long time. He started out with saddle horses as a youngster, but in his mid teens he discovered draft horses and the excitement of heavy horse pulls

Robert Lee
Robert Lee, smiling as he recalls memories of earlier years with his horses.

A couple of years later, while helping Don Pow get a team ready for the pulls, he was offered a Clydesdale to use. Cecil Crane lent him a second horse, Doug Peacock lent him a set of harness, and he was hooked. He started pulling with that team at Caledonia’s Golden Horseshoe weekend. Later, Bill Watt supplied some better collars for his team.

Although his dad George had earlier stated he was done with work horses, one day he came home with a two year old Percheron, telling Robert, “I bought one, you have to buy the other one.” They trained that team together, and it soon became dad’s team. Robert had to get his own. Robert has had draft horses ever since.

Robert has four mares and raises a foal or two most years. Last year there were three; this year only one is expected.

Robert Lee With Horse
Robert Lee with his Percheron mare Lady.

He no longer does horse pulls, but still maintains a presence in the community with his Percherons. He works his teams on the farm, doing hay and manure spreading and whatever other chores they can do around the farm. This keeps them busy and ready for more fun events like shows at Simcoe and other local fairs. His teams are very familiar to those who enjoy the Christmas Panorama in Simcoe. Daughter Becky is interested in the big horses too and has a goal of plowing with a walking plow at a plowing match some day. 

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