Old Crow pushes for renewable power

Old Crow is mostly white this time of year, but it is working on a plan to be a little bit more green.

Old Crow is mostly white this time of year, but it is working on a plan to be a little bit more green.

The remote northern community gets almost all of its electricity from a diesel plant owned and operated by Yukon Electrical Company Ltd.

The fuel has to be flown in, at great expense.

The community would like to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, said Joe Linklater, chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation.

It has already made efforts in that direction.

Two of the community’s newer buildings, the John Tizya Cultural Centre and the new research centre, have solar panels on the roof.

The high cost of burning diesel makes solar energy a viable option for Old Crow.

The panels are connected into the grid, so when they are producing more energy than the building is using, the excess power is sold back into the grid.

It’s a myth that solar energy is ineffective in the North, said Linklater.

“You don’t need direct sunlight for solar energy, you just need light for it work.”

And while winters are dark, there is plenty of light for the solar panels to feast on north of the Arctic Circle in the spring and summer months.

The community has also looked into the feasibility of wind power, said Linklater.

But the major challenge is that cold weather tends to ice up the moving parts of the turbine.

As as result, the studies done to date have found that wind power would not be cost effective at this point for the community.

Still, Old Crow wants to do more to move away from burning diesel.

The Yukon government is currently requesting proposals to conduct community energy planning for the community. The deadline for the tender is January 17.

The project is to calculate current energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions for Old Crow, and develop an action plan to both reduce energy demand and offer solutions for alternative energy supply.

The town has a few ideas already, said Linklater.

The community would like to expand its solar energy capabilities, possibly by building a solar farm, he said.

It also is planning to build a new multiplex with an arena, office space and other amenities.

Because of the proximity of the prosed building to the existing diesel plant, waste heat could be diverted from the generators and used to heat the building, said Linklater.

The community wants to reduce the cost of energy in the community, but it also wants to do something good for the environment, he said.

“The environment is obviously a huge concern.”

The younger generations in particular are worried about the future and wondering what kind of future that will be, he said.

Rapid changes to Arctic permafrost are already posing challenges for building construction, said Linklater.

Old Crow is a small place, and the impact of conservation initiatives there will have only tiny effects on the global scale.

But “at least we are trying to do something about it,” said Linklater.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at