Mayo pizza joint plugs in to solar panels

Tony’s Pizza can now offer pies that are, at least in part, cooked by the sun.

Tony’s Pizza can now offer pies that are, at least in part, cooked by the sun.

Mayo’s pizzeria is supplementing its electricity supply with 11,000 annual killowatt hours rooftop solar power.

The Na-Cho Nyäk Dun Development Corporation (NNDDC) partnered with Bullfrog Power, an Ontario-based power company focused on renewable energy, on the project. They also received funding from the federal and territorial governments.

Despite the long hours of darkness during Yukon winters, solar energy is especially well suited to the North, said Sonny Bajac, a consultant specializing in northern renewable energy who worked with the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun on the project. Solar panels are actually more efficient at colder temperatures and snow refracts light, increasing the amount of energy available for capture.

“Solar panels are great for cold climates,” Bajac said. “White snow refracts light better than anything else.”

The effectiveness of the panels under these conditions is good enough that you “get really good power uptake, even when the days are short,” said Greg Finnegan, the chief executive officer of NNDDC.

The final cost for the project was $32,200. “Essentially, it broke down to each party paying about one-third of the cost each,” said Andrijana Djokic, manager for NNDDC.

The solar panels were installed by Solvest, a company specializing in solar energy in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. The project also generated three jobs for members of the NNDFN community, Djokic said.

Bullfrog Power supplied a grant to help with the project as part of “its philanthropic commitments,” to renewable energy, said Jon McKay, corporate communications manager for Bullfrog Power.

“This looked like a really great project and we felt like we could made a contribution,” McKay said. “We try to pick small, community-based projects like this one to fund.”

Djokic said this project came out of a desire from the community for more energy self-sufficiency. Community members seem happy with the project, she said

“I’ve had two thank-you phone calls already just over the last couple days.”

While well-received within the community, the project was mainly a business decision, said Finnegan.

“It offsets the cost of power for (Tony’s Pizza, which leases the building from the First Nation) and is something we did for them. From a social and environmental side, NNDC has a strong mandate towards renewable power and green energy,” Finnegan said.

The solar panels do not store power, but supplement power pulled from the grid. Extra power can be sold back into the grid to ATCO Electric Yukon at 21 cents per kilowatt hour, McKay said. This is one of the economic incentives for these types of projects, he said.

Despite this, Finnegan said he doesn’t think there will be much power to sell from this specific project as most of it will be used by the restaurant. There are other economic benefits to the project, however.

“I don’t think this project will sell a lot back to the grid, but our return on investment is five years, which is really fast for the size of investment.” Finnegan said. “The renewable energy will pay for itself in five or six years, and that money will go back into community investment.”

Several mining projects in the area could go into production in the next few years, Finnegan said. Mining projects draw a lot of power, he said, and NNDC wants green energy to be “part of that power mix.”

The project had a quick turnaround, Finnegan said. NNDDC signed a contract Feb. 28 and had the solar panels installed and up and running by April 1.

A second project twice the size of the Tony’s Pizza project, which will see solar energy added to Mayo’s grocery store, is in development, Finnegan said.

Contact Lori Garrison at lori.garrison@yukon-news.com

A previous version of this story contained no text. Look, things happen sometimes.

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