Another Yukon community lines up for solar power in northwestern Canada

Solar panel arrays in Old Crow, Yukon. A similar solar project proposed for Beaver Creek, Yukon, would reduce the community’s reliance on diesel and significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions, according to the White River First Nation. (2019 GBP Creative Media/submitted by 3EYOND Consulting Group)
White River First Nation proposing solar farm in Beaver Creek to offset diesel use

The community of Beaver Creek, Yukon, could potentially cut its use of diesel-powered generators by 60 per cent, if a new solar project goes ahead.

The White River First Nation plans to build a 1.5 megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic generation farm with 4 megawatt hours (MWh) of battery energy storage for the Beaver Creek electrical grid.

“It is very large, for sure. It’s probably going to be one of the dominant features of downtown Beaver Creek for the foreseeable future,” said Chris Cowx, general manager of Copper Niisuu Limited Partnership, the First Nation’s development corporation.

The project proposal was filed in January with the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB).

Getting off diesel

Beaver Creek, a community of about 100 people near the Alaska border, is not connected to Yukon’s main electrical grid so it is entirely reliant on diesel power.

The First Nation says three diesel generators in the community generate around 1 MW of power. The solar project would cut about 970 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the First Nation.

“It’s going to be located fairly near the middle of town, right where the diesel plant is located now,” Cowx said, referring to the solar farm.

“And the goal is, of course, green energy. You know, that’s one of the mandates that came down from my board, is green energy.”

He says the new 2.4-ha (about 4.5 football fields) solar farm won’t be visible from the community.

Completion in 2021

Cowx says ATCO Electric, the community’s power distributor, will buy the solar power under an electricity purchase agreement, and distribute it to the community.

Cowx says the land for the solar farm will be cleared this spring. But because of permafrost, the ground will need to stabilize before infrastructure can be built. Building will happen the following summer.

“We have to order all of the equipment. And this is not stuff that [could] go down to the Source and just pick up and you know, throw in your pickup truck and drive up there,” said Cowx.

“When you order these kinds of batteries and control systems and specialized solar panels and all that sort of thing you’re looking at about six to nine months for delivery.”

The Yukon government says the Beaver Creek solar farm, which could be completed in the fall of 2021, would be the biggest solar array in Yukon.

Currently, the community of Old Crow is also developing a field of photovoltaic panels to offset an estimated 190,000 litres of diesel per year. ATCO will buy the solar energy, feed it into the power grid, and redistribute it to the community. It plans to produce 900 kilowatts of electricity.

Project estimated to cost $10M

The White River First Nation will contribute some of the money for the Beaver Creek project, but most will come from the territorial and federal governments.

It’s estimated to cost about $10 million.

“The heavy lifting for this project would have to come from the government of Canada. And the government of Canada has a number of energy-related programs,” said Geoff Woodhouse, senior policy analyst for the Yukon Development Corporation.

He says the White River First Nation solar project is a big deal.

“Any time that we can encourage both economic and environmental sustainability in these communities, it’s significant for the government,” he said.

The YESAB is expected to complete its review by March.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Renewable energy must be community tailored, Arctic conference hears, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Few Finns willing to make sacrifices alone for climate, poll finds, Yle News

Norway: Unfazed by youth climate protests, Norwegian gov expands Arctic drilling, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Norilsk, Arctic Russia is world’s largest sulfur dioxide emissions hotspot: report, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Local councils in Sweden more interested in climate change preparedness, Radio Sweden

United States: Alaska remote diesel generators win exemption from pollution rule, Alaska Public Media

Mike Rudyk, CBC News

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