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Burwash, Destruction Bay play with power innovation

The small communities of Destruction Bay and Burwash Landing want to wean themselves off diesel-generated power. Currently, they use two million kilowatt-hours of energy per year.


The small communities of Destruction Bay and Burwash Landing want to wean themselves off diesel-generated power.

Currently, they use two million kilowatt-hours of energy per year. The diesel plant consumes about 590,000 litres of fuel, at a cost of about $1 per litre.

That makes residents pretty conscious of their energy use.

Colin Wright, the Kluane First Nation’s environmental co-ordinator, who moved to Burwash Landing in October, says he does what he can.

“I try and conserve because I know what the energy situation here is,” he said over tea at his house.

“I try to reduce my hot water use, make sure my lights are off. I try and heat with my wood stove more than my furnace. If I have to heat up water, I try to do it on the wood stove rather than the electrical stove.”

There is no television set or computer in Wright’s modest home, but there are many musical instruments and books are scattered around the living room.

But community members are doing more than finding ways to entertain themselves without energy; they’ve started finding ways to produce energy for themselves.

Four public buildings in Burwash are connected to a district heating system. A wood-chip-fired boiler heats water, which is then circulated around the buildings like a furnace pushing air, said Wright.

The community is also turning its attention to a possible geothermal well and has started a program to have solar panels installed on the roof of some of the main buildings, he added.

Plus wind is a very obvious alternative, Wright said with a laugh. The short walk he’d just made from the First Nation’s government office to his house had forced him to pull his jacket tight around him and zip up his collar against the gale.

Walking around Burwash Landing and Destruction Bay is not unlike spending time on a natural, resistance-run treadmill. Residents are accustomed to tilting their heads forward and bundling up against the chilly and strong winds that sweep across huge Kluane Lake.

Wind prospector J.P. Pinard has started talks with the First Nation about his dream to turn that wind against the communities’ diesel dependency. He wants to build a wind farm on an escarpment about four kilometres outside of Destruction Bay, on the way to Burwash Landing. Currently, the slope he is interested in is home to a shooting range.

In about two years, Pinard hopes to have two to 10 wind turbines there instead, which he predicts will displace 30 per cent of the communities’ diesel consumption.

Installing smart grid technology is another part of the overall project. This will not only help store excess energy gathered in times of high wind, but it will also help use the energy more efficiently, including diverting it into space heating systems like the First Nation’s wood-chip boiler.

“Essentially what I’d like to do is shut that diesel plant,” said Pinard. “Shut it off and just have it there as a backup.”

Before Christmas, the Yukon Research Centre at Yukon College announced it is working with the Kluane First Nation to develop a total energy-use and emissions inventory.

“Yukon College contacted us and said, ‘Hey we’ve got some funding to do some initial studies,’” said Wright. “J.P. had already been working on these projects and trying to develop wind-energy projects so we just kind of combined all of our efforts.”

An inventory like this is quite a bit of work but can be just as beneficial for informing, supporting and developing renewable energy projects like those the First Nation is interested in, said researcher Lisa Christensen in a December news release.

The research centre’s inventory should be completed by March.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at