An Indigenous-owned clean energy company in northern Alberta has finished work on what it says is Canada’s largest solar farm in a remote community.
Three Nations Energy or 3NE is jointly owned by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Mikisew Cree First Nation, and Fort Chipewyan Métis Association. On Tuesday, a small event was held to celebrate completion of the solar project in Fort Chipewyan.
“The 3NE Solar Farm Partnership demonstrates how Cree, Dene and Métis peoples of the Delta can work together to bring new technologies into our communities,” Mikisew Cree First Nation Chief Peter Powder said in a statement. “This builds the capacity of our own tradespeople, workers, and contractors to participate in the emerging green energy sector.”
According to 3NE, the solar farm – in addition to a smaller adjacent farm, which Atco completed in July 2019 – will supply Fort Chipewyan with 3,303 megawatt hours of electricity per year. That accounts for approximately 25 percent of the community’s annual electricity need.
Use of solar technology will eliminate more than 800,000 litres of diesel fuel use every year, the company added, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2,250 tonnes annually.
“Our people have a proud tradition of making our livelihood from the sustainable use of local renewable resources,” said Blue Eyes Simpson, vice president of the Fort Chipewyan Métis Association. “We are committed to being good stewards of the land for future generations.”
Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam noted the Peace Athabasca Delta is already seeing the impacts of climate change. While communities are dependent on jobs and revenues from the fossil fuel industry, he said, that doesn’t mean they have to forgo protecting the environment.
“We can do both. It all starts with what we do here at home, cleaning up our own emissions like this solar farm will for electricity in Fort Chip,” Adam said.
Electricity produced by the solar farm will be purchased by Atco and distributed through the community’s electricity grid, which serves about 1,100 residents, beginning in January.
As construction of the farm was on time and under budget, 3NE says the savings are being used to add 150 kilowatts of solar capacity to the farm. That work is expected to be complete in spring 2021.
The $7.76-million project was fully funded by the Alberta and federal governments. It consists of four ground-mounted solar photovoltaic panels and spans approximately 6.5 acres.
“Indigenous people must have an equity stake in resource projects if there’s going to be a healthy future for our vital resource industries and for communities to prosper,” Rick Wilson, Alberta’s minister of Indigenous relations, was quoted as saying.