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Solar power taking over in First Nation Above the Arctic Circle

Meet the First Nation Above the Arctic Circle That Just Went Solar https://www.desmog.ca/2017/03/28/meet-first-nation-above-arctic-circle-just-went-solar  By Matt Jacques • Tuesday, March 28, 2017 Across Canada’s north, diesel has long been the primary mode of providing year-round electricity to remote communities — but with the advent of small-scale renewables, that’s about to change.

Northern communities were already making strides toward a renewable energy future, but with $400 million committed in this year’s federal budget to establish an 11-year Arctic Energy Fund, energy security in the north has moved firmly into the spotlight.

This level of support shows positive commitment from the Canadian government on ending fossil fuel dependency in Indigenous communities and transitioning these communities to clean energy systems,” said Dave Lovekin, a senior advisor at the Pembina Institute.

Burning diesel not only pollutes the atmosphere, but getting it into remote communities is often inefficient in and of itself: it’s delivered by truck, barge or, sometimes when the weather doesn’t cooperate, by plane.

There are more than 170 remote indigenous communities in Canada still relying almost completely upon diesel for their electricity needs.

But, for some, at least, that’s beginning to change. Take the community of Old Crow (Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation), above the Arctic circle in the Yukon.

Despite its northern latitude, and near total darkness between December and February, a 2014 Government of Yukon pilot study demonstrated that solar represents a major untapped renewable resource for the community. Now Old Crow has a number of small-scale solar panel installations, including an 11.8 kilowatt array at the Arctic Research Centre — but its sights are set higher. Plans for a 330 kilowatt solar plant are well underway. A 2016 feasibility study estimated that this large-scale installation could offset 17 per cent of the community’s total diesel use, or up to 98,000 litres of fuel each year.

Anything that affects our community, we want to have control over. That’s our goal with this project is to have ownership over the facility,” said William Josie, director of Natural Resources for the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. “We burn a lot of fuel up here per capita and we’re trying to reduce that.”

Josie said his community is excited to build further solar capacity.

This has been in the works for a long time, and it’s just the right thing to do,” he said. “It’s the first solar project of this size in the Yukon with community ownership.”

The Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation has a self-governing final agreement in place with the Government of Canada, the Government of the Yukon and the Council of Yukon First Nations. So too does the Kluane (Burwash Landing/Destruction Bay) First Nation in the southwestern Yukon, which is taking another approach to delivering a similar level of renewable energy capacity.

A major $2.4 million wind power generation project is set to be installed in 2018. Three refurbished 95 kilowatt turbines will deliver just under 300 kilowatts of total power and are estimated to offset 21 per cent of the community’s total diesel use.

One of the big things for the community is to be self-reliant and self-sufficient. Diesel is neither of those two,” explains Colin Asseltine, general manager of the Kluane Community Development Corporation. “We’re looking at what we can possibly do to reduce our carbon footprint and move off-grid.”

The wind project will expand on the earlier successes in the community. Since 1998, Burwash Landing has used biomass for district heating, and began selling solar power back into the grid not long after installing a 48 kilowatt array in 2003. Along the way, they have been collecting the data required to inform the next steps and increase the impact of the community’s investment in renewable energy.

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April 19, 2017 - Posted by | ARCTIC, decentralised

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