The Alberta government is contributing CAD $3.3 million for a solar project with local Metis and the Athabasca Chipewyan and Mikisew Cree First Nations in the province’s remote northeast corner, which will be Canada’s largest off-the-grid solar power project. The total cost of the project is CAD $7.8 million.
Alberta Fort Chipewyan is not connected to Alberta’s electricity grid and must burn diesel fuel for heat and power. The plan is for 7,500 solar panels to be erected at the power plant near the airport at Fort Chipewyan. The solar farm is expected to be operational by next year and replace the equivalent of 800,000 litres of diesel fuel — about 25 per cent of the community’s energy use.
The project’s size and storage capacity is required because of the lack of sunlight in the winter at that latitude. Sunlight in the region swings from about six useful hours a day in winter to 18 hours in the summer. The battery capacity will allow excess energy to be stored for use at night and in winter periods. The project is expected to make roads safer by reducing tanker-truck traffic.
Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam said his First Nation wants to be part of the solution to climate change. “While our regional economy depends on the oil industry, we feel the effects of climate change in our community and see the growing impacts on our delta lands,” he said. “In addition to reducing costs, this project helps make life better for residents by reducing pollution and increasing safety,” Indigenous Relations Minister Richard Feehan said Thursday.