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Diesel generators go quiet in Old Crow as the Sree Vyah solar project replaces their need

The solar array will provide 24 per cent of Old Crow’s electrical needs
An aerial view of Sree Vyah showing the mono-crystalline panels positioned in an east-west orientation to maximize solar generation during the long daylight hours of the Arctic summer. (Photo by Caleb Charlie)

Last week, Old Crow, the Yukon’s only fly-in community, went silent, acccording to a Aug. 17 press release.

That’s because the Sree Vyah solar project was completed and began to run. The hum from the diesel generators was non-existent.

Sree Vyah makes important progress in Canada’s transition away from fossil fuels to clean renewable energy. Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm said that this project is just the start.

“It’s incredibly exciting,” said Tizya-Tramm. “It’s a lot of work and it’s just the tip of the iceberg representing a lot of community direction, governmental implementation our collective vision and what that means for Canada.”

The solar farm is 2,160 single-sided mono-crystalline panels and is configured east-to-west to maximize solar generation during the long daylight hours.

The solar array works alongside a 616 kW battery energy storage system and micro-grid controller curtailing the use of diesel generators by 2,200 hours per year.

Solar generation will meet 24 per cent of Old Crow’s electrical demands.

Under a 25-year electricity purchase agreement with ATCO, electricity from the solar array, which is owned by the Vuntut Gwitchin, will be purchased by ATCO at a rate equal to the cost of diesel generation.

This partnership will generate stable, long-term income for the First Nation over the life of the project and keep money in Old Crow for economic vitality and community stability, said a VGFN press release.

“We are now selling them (ATCO) savings and retaining just over $400,000 a year for our government to fund exponential growth in other renewable energy,” said Tizya-Tramm. “That’s why it is succinct to say this solar energy project is just the tip of an iceberg.”

The Sree Vyah project was a community effort, said Tizya-Tramm and will be a “key element of the Vuntut Gwitchin Government’s larger vision of reaching net-zero emissions by 2030.”

A technical report on the project says that the average annual diesel reduction from the project will be 189,000 litres. Over the life of the project, diesel reduction would be 4.7 million litres.

The greenhouse gas reduction over the life of the project will be 16,500 CO2e/year.

The Vuntut Gwitchin government has been working toward introducing clean energy to Old Crow since 2008 when the John Tizya Centre was built with a 3.3kW solar array.

When speaking on the project, Tizya-Tramm said the Old Crow community are the real climate change experts.

“The direction comes from the community members,” said Tizya-Tramm. “Our agreements are about the integrity of our lands, our water and our animals.

“We have an extremely climate-conscious populace and their level of concern, their priorities guide our government in establishing new technologies to serve the most ancient of our principles.”

Completing a project like Sree Vyah puts Vuntut Gwitchin in a leadership position when it comes to climate and renewable energy, said Tizya-Tramm.

“Vuntut’s mandates and what we’ve been able to accomplish go much farther than the solar farm itself,” said Tizya-Tramm.

“We’ve been working hard to enable other communities to be successive in passing mandates through the Assembly of First Nations that mirrors federal commitments to get all rural communities off diesel generation by 2030.”

Contact John Tonin at