(Fort Chipewyan) -Three Nations Energy GP Inc. (3NE) is celebrating completion of their 2.2 MW DC solar farm in Fort Chipewyan Alberta – on time and under budget.
The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Mikisew Cree First Nation, and Fort Chipewyan Metis Association formed 3NE in 2018 and worked in partnership with ATCO to plan and design the farm, and to secure funding. The Government of Alberta and Natural Resources Canada both contributed towards the total cost of about $7.8 million.
COVID-19 restrictions prevented 3NE from having a community gathering, but a small group of Leaders from 3NE and ATCO assembled at the site with Elders and local Drummers in a short celebration of offerings, thanks and prayers for the success of the project (with -15 deg C, masks and distancing). The owners of Three Nations Energy GP Inc. (3NE) also held a virtual gathering by Webinar.
“Our people have a proud tradition of making our livelihood from the sustainable use of local renewable resources,” stated Blue Eyes Simpson, VP Fort Chipewyan Metis Association and 3NE Director. “We are committed to being good stewards of the land for future generations. Reducing carbon emissions by replacing imported diesel with our locally owned solar farm uses new technology to act on these values in a way that will increase our energy security and self-sufficiency.”
“We are already seeing the impacts of Climate Change on the Peace Athabasca Delta,” stated Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam. “Yes, our Nations are dependent for jobs and investment revenues on prosperity of the oilsands but that doesn’t mean forcing us into a false choice between a strong fossil fuel industry and protecting climate and the environment. We can do both. It all starts with what we do here at home, cleaning up our own emissions like this solar farm will do for electricity in Fort Chip.”
“The 3NE Solar Farm Partnership demonstrates how Cree, Dene and Metis peoples of the Delta can work together to bring new technologies into our communities,” added Mikisew Cree First Nation Chief Peter Powder. “This builds the capacity of our own tradespeople, workers, and contractors to participate in the emerging green energy sector – just as we now play a major role contributing to the success of the fossil fuel industry of Alberta. We extend our thanks to ATCO, Alberta, and Canada for their partnership roles in the Solar Farm.”
Construction started in February 2020 when winter ice road access into the community opened briefly for heavy truck transport. ATCO completed an adjacent phase 1 solar farm of 600 kW DC capacity in July 2019 and both solar farms feed into a 1.5 MWh battery storage system owned by ATCO (and also just completed). Collaboration between ATCO Power (General Contractor) and 3NE resulted in cost savings which are being used to add another 150 kW DC of solar capacity this winter. The combined 2.95 MW DC solar farm is Canada’s largest remote off-grid solar generating facility. Together the solar farms and storage system will supply over 25% of Fort Chipewyan’s total annual electricity needs, eliminate more than 800,000 litres of diesel fuel AND reduce greenhouse gases emissions by about 2,250 tonnes of CO2eq each year.
In January 2021 power will flow onto the isolated community grid serving about 1,100 residents, once final commissioning is completed. 3NE Solar is also one of the first projects to be permitted by the Alberta Utilities Commission under the 2018 Small Scale (Community) Generation Regulation.
“This outstanding project showcases how industry and Indigenous communities can work together to develop sustainable and renewable energy solutions that will benefit today’s and future generations,” stated Nancy Southern, ATCO Chair and CEO. “Partnering with Indigenous communities in a meaningful economic way is something we take very seriously. Together with 3NE, we are fostering community ownership and self-sustaining economic development through job creation, investment in infrastructure, and revenue from the sale of clean power.”
“I would like to congratulate Three Nations Energy GP Inc. and partners for completing the largest solar energy system in a remote community in Canada,” stated Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Reagan. “This is a model for Canada’s green energy future – one that is Indigenous led.”
“Opening the 3NE solar farm gives the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Mikisew Cree First Nation and Fort Chipewyan Métis Association the power to heat and light their community,” remarked Alberta Minister of Indigenous Relations Rick Wilson. “Indigenous people must have an equity stake in resource projects if there’s going to be a healthy future for our vital resource industries and for communities to prosper. Projects like this one will benefit generations to come.”