Délınę hopes to follow communities like Colville Lake and introduce solar energy to reduce its reliance on costly and polluting diesel generation for power.
The community of just over 500 – the first in the Northwest Territories to create its own self-government – used the winter road to introduce its first solar project in March.
Tim Tutcho is Délınę’s energy champion for a project known as the Indigenous Off-Diesel Initiative, run by the federal agency Natural Resources Canada.
He says his community’s plan – to install solar panels on the roofs of the Grey Goose Lodge hotel and its warehouse – is well ahead of the federal government’s schedule, even though the Covid-19 pandemic has delayed installation by a few months.
Tutcho said the hotel’s kitchens, freezers, and other power-hungry items continue to operate despite a lack of tourism revenue as the pandemic shuts down travel to the territory.
He thinks installing the solar panels “will save the hotel at least $1,500 to $2,000 a month.”
The 60 solar panels, supplied by Ontario-based company Green Sun Rising, will provide 15 kilowatts of energy per day for each of the buildings on which they are installed.
Tutcho says that energy will meet power requirements for both the lodge and eight cabins during the daytime, before a switch to diesel once the sun goes down.
Jobs, learning opportunities
Tutcho said the community’s decision to pursue the project will save money, provide jobs, and offer learning opportunities to youth.
Green Sun Rising, for example, provided training to Tutcho and other community members. He expects training sessions for more residents in future.
“We’re looking to hire workers for the solar project and I am also looking for workers, summer students to help me with community energy planning,” he said.
Tutcho took Marie Lennie, a student at Délınę’s Ehtseo Ayha school, to Ottawa for training. The school is now looking at embarking on a composting project to provide fuel for future biomass power generation.
Biomass could be the next evolution of power in Délınę if that’s what the community decides, said Tutcho. He thinks the Délınę Got’ine Government could find a business model in helping other communities to move away from diesel.
“After we’re done with the training, then our members train, let’s say for example, our neighbour community Tulita or Norman Wells,” he gave as an example.
“We could partner up with them and have our people travel to them, and then they have the training. And then they’ll be able to be involved in the clean energy themselves.”