Crews install solar panels at the Yukon Energy head office in Whitehorse in 2015. YESAB is currently considering a proposal for a solar farm at Mount Sima. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

Proposed Mount Sima solar farm under YESAB review

‘Energy production is about to be democratized, for lack of a better word’

A proposed solar farm at Mount Sima is currently under review by the Yukon Socio-Economic Assessment Board (YESAB).

If approved, the project would generate solar electricity that would feed back into the main power grid. It requires clearing 1.3 hectares of undeveloped land for solar panel modules and bases. The project would also include burying power cables in trenches, the construction of an access road from Mount Sima Road and a caretaker’s residence.

Proponent Sebastien Roy of Nomad Contracting and Electrical Services said via email that the project is “still in its infancy,” and has “a few more hurdles to overcome before energy production begins.”

“Putting a solar farm together is dear to me and seems to be a step in the right direction to fight climate change,” he said. “I have the firm conviction that producing solar power in the North is not only possible, but that it is also economically viable and truly sustainable.”

Roy said he feels he is currently impeded by the Yukon government’s independent power producer policy, which has not yet been fully implimented.

“This greatly limits the maximum system capacity (for the project),” he said. Roy did not say what the solar farm’s generation capacity would be.

The 2015 policy has limits for micro-generation projects, such as homeowners who install solar panels on their house and sell their excess power back into the grid.

It does not yet have set policies for projects like the proposed Mount Sima solar farm, which would be generating power directly back into the grid. Those policies are currently still in the works, said Brigitte Parker, a spokesperson for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. At the moment, an IPP project would be able to neogotiate with the Yukon Energy Corporation “based on the utility’s power needs,” she said.

The policy currently caps micro-generation contributions into the Yukon power grid at 10,000 megawatt hours per year, with that policy coming under review every two years.

Parker said that the department is looking to have the IPP policy reviewed sometime in 2018, and will likely be reviewing the micro-generation cap at the same time.

The Mount Sima project comes in the wake of several other small scale solar projects launched this year, including one by the Nacho Nyak Dun Development Corporation that saw Tony’s Pizza in Mayo outfitted with solar panels to offset the cost of powering the restaurant. That project was done in conjunction with Ontario-based solar power company, Bullfrog.

“Solar is getting so popular (in the Yukon) because it’s a no-brainer electricity source,” said Sebastian Jones, energy analyst for the Yukon Conservation Society.

Yukon Energy doesn’t really invest in these kinds of alternative energy projects, Jones said, “because of cultural interia in the utility world.”

“(Yukon Energy) hasn’t found a way to make these projects work from them,” said Jones. “The way they do their sums, it probably doesn’t work for them (money-wise) yet.”

Thus far, he notes, Yukon Energy has focused on “big hydro projects” to meet the Yukon’s energy needs. Things are changing, however, Jones said.

“Energy production is about to be democratized, for lack of a better word,” he said.

“I’m pretty excited about this (solar) project…. There’s no doubt solar has a big role to play in the energy mix in the Yukon.”

Contact Lori Fox at lori.fox@yukon-news.com

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