The federal government is contributing $4.5 million towards a solar project in Fort Chipewyan that is designed to be Canada’s largest off-grid solar project.
The funding adds to the $3.3-million contribution from the former Alberta NDP government in February. With a price tag of $7.8 million, the project is now entirely funded by the provincial and federal governments.
Once completed, the 7,500 solar panels will displace 650,000 litres of diesel annually from the community’s only power plant and generate 20 per cent of power for the community.
The project is spearheaded by Three Nations Energy LP – a company founded by the Athabasca Chipewyan and Mikisew Cree First Nations, as well as Métis Local 125. ATCO will be working with Three Nations Energy through the process, providing construction, design and operation services.
“Our solar farm will create local jobs and increase our energy security, and over time it will generate revenues to re-invest in our community,” said Blue Eyes Simpson of Fort Chipewyan Métis Local 125 in a statement.
“While the regional economy depends on the oil industry, we feel the effects of climate change in Fort Chipewyan and see the growing impacts on our Delta lands,” said Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. “Our members want us to be part of the solution, and we appreciate Canada and Alberta working with us to take a big step forward to cut pollution and protect the environment.”
Fort Chipewyan is not connected to Alberta’s electrical grid and relies exclusively on diesel fuel for heat and power. This fuel can only be driven into the community when the winter road is open.
Once that happens, a constant parade of trucks carrying 50,000-litres of fuel will deliver five million litres of diesel to Fort Chipewyan’s power plant.
In January, Councillor Bruce Inglis warned in an interview with the Today that the community’s reliance on one diesel plant for power was a danger during the winter months.
If the plant was destroyed or damaged, the results would be “catastrophic” if the accident happened before the winter road had opened and while parts of the Athabasca River were still frozen.
There is also the danger of a diesel truck spilling in the community, he said.
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