The Carcross/Tagish First Nation is hoping a micro-hydro power facility will bring power back to the people.
“You’re developing something grassroots and it’s community based,” said David Jensen, liaison officer for the Carcross/Tagish Development Corporation.
The corporation and the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs announced a feasibility study to build a dam off Choutla Lake.
The dam would be a micro-hydro facility.
Micro dams typically produce two megawatts of power, according to the BC hydro website.
Compare that to the 40 megawatts coming out of the Whitehorse dam and 30 megawatts produced by the Aishihik power station.
One megawatt from a micro facility can create enough energy for 550 homes, says the website.
The dam would sidestep some of the river’s flow into a small turbine, minimizing damage to any fish routes.
“The place we’re planning on has an existing dam that was working years ago,” said Jensen.
That dam has not served any purpose for some time, he said.
Power from the dam would be sold to the major grid operators, Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Electrical Company Limited.
“We can generate power that Yukon Energy needs in the future rather than now,” he said.
“There will be a shortfall in the future, with more mines being added,” he said.
Micro dams are new to the Yukon, but popular in other jurisdictions with remote First Nations communities.
“It’s just becoming really popular in BC,” said Jensen.
“BC hydro is purchasing from lots of First Nations that are building micro-hydro facilities on their land,” he said.
A micro dam would bring some cash flow into the First Nation, he added.
“We’re looking for ways to make money.
“And you’re probably looking at creating one or two jobs and training people to run the dam.”
Carcross/Tagish won’t have to bring in experts from Outside to run it.
“It’s not that it takes a master’s degree. You just need experience in the area,” said Jensen.
Jensen wouldn’t speak on behalf of Yukon Energy but said the corporation should embrace the idea of First Nations developing micro hydro to take up increased demand.
“You know, BC hydro went to micro hydro because there is such an increased demand,” he said.
But he hinted Yukon Energy might not take kindly to outsourcing power generation.
“Corporations are there to make money. They’re always looking at the financial bottom line,” he said.
“So it may take some legislation working with Yukon Energy Corporation on best-practises options.”
The current power provider should see some advantages to micro dams.
“I think it’s more cost effective to develop these dams,” he said.
Both sides might have to negotiate a proper fee for the sale of power, he said.
The feasibility study will cost the development corporation $20,500, while the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs has invested $249,000 in the project through the Strategic Investments in Northern Economic Development program.
The study will integrate environmental effects, traditional knowledge and other considerations into a cohesive plan.
The dam won’t be built soon, but with the study the First Nation is prepping for when the demand for power gets too high for the major power providers.
“It’s like having extra players on the bench,” said Jensen.
Contact James Munson at firstname.lastname@example.org