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Construction of Fort Chipewyan solar farm begins Spring 2020

Last Updated Nov 26, 2019 at 9:26 am MST

An aerial view of Fort Chipewyan, Alta., on the border of Wood Buffalo National Park is shown on Monday, Sept. 19, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Preparation for the construction of the second and final phase of Fort Chipewyan’s solar farm is underway.

The second phase, which is owned by Three Nations Energy (3NE), will consist of 6,000 solar panels on top of 1,500 owned by ATCO.

Director of Strategic Advisory Services with the Athabasca First Nation, Jason Schulz said supplies will be transported to the community once the winter road is ready.

In terms of work being done, he said come spring 2020 the community can expect to see brush clearing and the start of construction.

ATCO, who owns phase one of the solar farm, will buy the electricity from 3NE for distribution.

Schulz, who is also the treasurer for 3NE, said that revenue will flow back to Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Mikisew Cree First Nation and Fort Chipewyan Local 125 – the three groups that form the company.

“About 10 per cent will be retained by Three Nations Energy for community initiatives around green energy or educational components around green energy or energy efficiency.”

The project will also create 40 local jobs during construction, plus contractor positions.

ATCO Strategic Project Manager Ryan Anderson outlined how they will collaborate with 3NE on the project.

“They contracted us to build and operate the solar farm providing them the capacity to do the engineering, procurement, construction, and commissioning of that solar farm they will own.”

Anderson added ATCO would operate the farm for about two years while providing training for local engineers.

“The second phase will also have a battery component. There’s going to be a battery that will charge during the day, discharge during the evening, and add reliability to the system.”

It’s expected to reduce diesel usage in the community by around 25 per cent.

Anderson said that amounts to less diesel fuel burning by 650,000 litres per year, taking roughly 20 trucks off the road.

“That’s going to reduce about 1700 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, reduce our greenhouse gas [emissions], and generate employment in the community.”

The $7.8 million dollar project has been fully funded through a collaboration between federal and provincial governments.