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Canadian Community Microgrids Power Indigenous Areas

image credit: Three Nations Energy
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writer and researcher BrightGreen PR

Julian Jackson is a writer whose interests encompass business and technology, cryptocurrencies, energy and the environment, as well as photography and film. His portfolio is...

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In the rugged North of Canada, rural communities often have to rely on diesel generators, which is not only a polluter – generating GHGs – but also expensive and noisy. Some First Nations are moving into community-generated power, by putting together microgrids, assisted by utilities and developers. This makes sense from many angles: the communities have their own power available, and they can sell any excess back to the grid. The power is clean and free of fossil fuels.

This electricity supply is not dependent on external factors. The impacts and costs of diesel can be significant. Diesel generators are noisy, costly and carbon-emitting and can be as much as $2 per kWh to  run, especially if the diesel has to be flown into the area. The average cost is 40 to 45 cents/kWh, which is still pretty high.

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These regions of Canada are among the fastest warming areas of the world and the impact is profound. Climate change is affecting wildlife, fisheries, forests and the indigenous communities who depend on them.

About 50 to 55 microgrids that aim to reduce diesel use are now in development with First Nations.

Projects include the Fort Chipewyan microgrid, in Alberta, which has 2.2 MW of solar and 1.5 MW of battery storage. The consequent reduction in diesel is around 211,338 gallons per year, it also cuts the number of tanker trucks on the road, decreases emissions and brings community benefits through ownership of the microgrid, which is Three Nations Energy. The company is an equal partnership between three Fort Chipewyan Nations — the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, the Mikisew Cree First Nation and the Fort Chipewyan Metis Association.

The microgrid is owned by the community, and a strong consultative process ensures that the benefits are enjoyed by all the local people. Three Nations Energy continues with outreach projects to explain the benefits of green energy to potential users around the area.

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