A 60-metre-tall pole is being erected near the shore of Kluane Lake between Burwash Landing and Destruction Bay next week.
It is not part of a wind turbine, but it is the beginning of a wind-energy project for the area.
The meteorological tower is equipped with wind-speed and direction sensors, as well as thermometers that send data to J.P. Pinard’s cellphone every few weeks.
Pinard, who has been behind many of the territory’s wind-energy efforts, is hoping to help the two tiny communities turn off their diesel generators once and for all.
The plan is to have three wind turbines built between the highway and the lake along the few kilometres between the two communities by 2014.
This is just another step in the Kluane First Nation’s efforts to provide greener, cleaner and cheaper energy.
“We’ve always been pushing the idea of alternative energy and offsetting some of our diesel costs and consumption,” said Math’ieya Alatini, chief of the First Nation. “Fossil fuels are dirty, they’re getting more expensive and it is polluting the environment. We need to be doing our part.”
This past summer, the First Nation drilled to test for geothermal energy. Solar panels have been installed. And, for more than a decade, Burwash Landing has had a wood-chip-fired district heating system, which heats four public buildings.
Currently, Yukon Electric’s diesel generators guzzle about 590,000 litres of fuel, at a cost of about $1 per litre, per year to provide electricity to both Burwash Landing and Destruction Bay. Both communities are completely off the grid. Burwash alone needs about two million kilowatt-hours of energy per year, which costs about $0.35 per kilowatt-hour on diesel.
“For them it’s a huge expense,” said Alatini about the electrical company. “It makes sense for us to partner on other things.”
When running at full capacity, the three wind turbines are expected to produce about 300 kilowatts, said Colin Wright, environment co-ordinator with the First Nation. Each year, the turbine trio is expected to displace 150,000 litres of diesel.
And despite the normally windy conditions around Kluane Lake, the First Nation is aware of some of the downsides to wind energy.
“It’s not always a consistent source of energy,” said Wright. “You have to look at finding multiple sources of energy to supply the grid. But combining all of these technologies into one grid is what we’re looking to do.
“We’re looking to start developing renewable energy resources in our area, and we’re looking at reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.”
Along with the cost-savings and environmental concerns, much support for the First Nation’s efforts has come from industry, said Alatini.
“There’s a lot of push towards looking at alternative energy sources,” she said. “There’s a lot of money out there, and we have our own, of course. We’ve had support from mining companies … just by putting it out there, that we’re interested in looking at this. And we’re signing off an (memorandum of understanding) with Yukon Electric.
“And we’ve got enough wind here,” she added with a laugh.
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at