After the success of its 2013 solar panel pilot project, NorthwesTel has installed four additional photovoltaic arrays to power remote northern sites.
In the Northwest Territories, arrays were installed to power the microwave sites of Courageous and MacKay Lakes, located near the diamond mines north of Yellowknife. Two arrays were also installed north of Ross River.
In 2013, NorthwesTel partnered with Cold Climate Innovation and the Department of Energy to fuel the Engineer Creek site in Yukon with solar energy.
The project allowed them to shut off diesel power at the site completely for a few months and run with a mix of solar and diesel during the winter. In its first three months of operation the company saved 64 per cent in fuel costs, or about $6,500.
Annually, NorthwesTel spends upwards of $2.5 million to power remote sites. They maintain 156 microwave stations, 87 of which rely on independent sources of power and 37 which are accessible only by helicopter.
The total savings for all solar-assisted sites over the next year is an estimated $46,000, or 20,000 litres of fuel.
NorthwesTel is currently reviewing the possibility of installing four more sites in 2015, and another four in 2016. If completed the company expects further fuel savings of $192,000.
“It was an initiative we were enthusiastic to go down, and the success of the 2013 site was overwhelming so we immediately started building more,” said company spokeswoman Catherine Newsome.
There are currently no plans in the works for price-reduction at the consumer level, though that could change in the future, said Newsome.