Old Crow wants to build Yukon’s largest solar plant

The Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation is planning to build the Yukon’s largest solar array in Old Crow.

The Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation is planning to build the Yukon’s largest solar array in Old Crow.

The proposal for a 330-kilowatt solar array and a storage facility to be built just north of the Old Crow airstrip is currently being reviewed by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board.

The solar panels could displace 17 per cent of Old Crow’s electricity demand, which is currently supplied almost entirely by diesel. If the proposal goes ahead, the community would be powered entirely by solar energy during certain periods of the summer.

“It is costly to bring diesel fuel to Old Crow and on top of that the power plant is running 24/7,” said William Josie, director of natural resources with the First Nation. “We just want a little bit of energy security.”

Josie said the community has been interested in alternative energy since the 1990s. In the last four years, the First Nation partnered with Vancouver-based Sea Breeze Microgrid Systems to develop a solar project proposal. It also received an ecoENERGY grant last year to complete a feasibility study, which is ongoing.

The Fist Nation submitted a proposal to YESAB in March. It estimates that the solar array could reduce the community’s diesel consumption by 97,619 litres each year.

Josie said the project has the community’s full support.

“We’ve been going after a project like this for a long time,” he said. “So when we updated the people this spring, they said ‘Why another update? Just go and do it.’”

With a capacity of 330 kilowatts, the Old Crow solar array would be by far the largest in the territory. As a comparison, the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources confirmed that three solar systems recently installed on community buildings in Burwash Landing have a combined capacity of just 42 kilowatts.

Old Crow already has solar panels installed on its research centre and cultural centre. The 11.8-kilowatt system on the research centre is one of the largest in Yukon.

Josie said the solar array will be owned by the community, but the First Nation still needs to find financing for the project, which he estimates will cost $2.3 million to build. He said revenue from power production should pay off the capital costs within about 11 years and the community then stands to make about $300,000 a year from the panels, according to the feasibility study.

The First Nation will have to negotiate a power purchase agreement with ATCO Electric Yukon, which currently supplies the community’s diesel power.

He said federal funding sources might include the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor), Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) and Polar Knowledge Canada. The First Nation will also approach the Yukon government, he said.

“With the amount of fuel we truck into the Yukon and that cost, we’re just trying to save some money for other, more important projects,” Josie said.

Though much work remains, Josie hopes construction will begin in 2017. He said the First Nation plans to work with Yukon College to train community members to maintain the facility and replace the solar panels when necessary.

Contact Maura Forrest at maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Team Togo member Katie Moen sits in a sled behind a snowmobile for the ride from the airport to Chief Zzeh Gittlit School. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Coming together: How Old Crow became one of the first communities in the world to be fully vaccinated

Team Togo and Team Balto assembled with a mission to not waste a single dose of vaccine

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. If council moves forward with bylaw changes, eating and drinking establishments could set up pop-up patios in on-street parking spaces. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Patios may be popping up in Whitehorse this summer

City considers program for downtown restaurants and bars

The Yukon Coroner's Service has confirmed the death of a skateboarder found injured on Hamilton Boulevard on May 2. Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News
Whitehorse man dies in skateboarding accident

Coroner urges the use of helmets, protective gear, while skateboarding.

The new Yukon Liberal caucus poses for a photo during the swearing-in ceremony held on May 3. (Yukon Government/Submitted)
Liberal cabinet sworn in at legislature before house resumes on May 11

Newly elected MLA Jeremy Harper has been nominated as speaker.

The Yukon Wildlife Preserve’s baby bison, born April 22, mingles with the herd on April 29. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Yukon Wildlife Preserves welcomes two bison calves

A bison calf was the first 2021 baby born at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve

A map provided by the Yukon government shows the location of unpermitted logging leading to a $2,500 fine. (Courtesy/Yukon government)
Man fined $2,500 for felling trees near Beaver Creek

The incident was investigated by natural resource officers and brought to court.

The site of the Old Crow solar project photographed on Feb. 20. The Vuntut Gwitchin solar project was planned for completion last summer, but delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic pushed it back. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Old Crow is switching to solar

The first phase of the community’s solar array is already generating power.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
One new case of COVID-19 in the Yukon

Case number 82 is the territory’s only active case

Flood and fire risk and potential were discussed April 29. Yukoners were told to be prepared in the event of either a flood or a fire. Submitted Photo/B.C. Wildfire Service
Yukoners told to be prepared for floods and wildland fire season

Floods and fire personelle spoke to the current risks of both weather events in the coming months.

From left to right, Pascale Marceau and Eva Capozzola departed for Kluane National Park on April 12. The duo is the first all-woman expedition to summit Mt. Lucania. (Michael Schmidt/Icefield Discovery)
First all-woman team summits Mt. Lucania

“You have gifted us with a magical journey that we will forever treasure.”

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

Whitehorse goings-on for the week of April 26

The Yukon Department of Education in Whitehorse on Dec. 22, 2020. The department has announced new dates for the 2021/2022 school year. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Yukon school dates set for 2021/22

The schedule shows classes starting on Aug. 23, 2021 for all Whitehorse schools and in some communities.

Most Read