A remote First Nation in south-central British Columbia is helping people reduce their reliance on diesel-generated power and move to clean solar energy, in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions and save money.
Using leading-edge solar technology, and backed up by lithium-ion batteries, the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation government is making progress delivering on a promise to provide clean, affordable electricity to its community.
“The First Nation was given a mandate by the community to provide reliable, renewable energy to all members at an affordable rate,” said project manager George Colgate. “This system is designed to do that.”
This $2.4-million second phase of the project received $250,000 in equity funding from B.C.’s First Nations Clean Energy Business Fund. Federal funding and contributions from the Province’s Community Energy Leadership Program and Remote Community Implementation Program, as well as a bank loan, will provide the balance.
When the project is complete, 67 homes and eight community buildings will be powered by the new system. It’s also expected to reduce diesel consumption by 143,000 litres per year, representing a savings to the community of more than $150,000 every year. “That should allow them to pay off the bank loan in five to 10 years,” Colgate said.
Xeni Gwet’in will also have to establish a contingency fund to begin replacing the expensive backup batteries in 15 to 20 years.
This new system will cut energy costs for the community. The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is equally impressive, estimated at 382 tonnes per year.
That will be accomplished by reducing the amount of time diesel generators, which will be relegated to a backup role, are needed to produce electricity. Situated in a region where the sun can be relied upon for power from February to October, diesel generation will be reduced by as much as 80%.
The batteries can carry the load for one day of cloudy skies before the generators – propane for Phase 1 and diesel for Phase 2 – will have to be turned on.
“Three or four years ago, we couldn’t try this, because the technology wasn’t at this level,” Colgate said. “So this system is really on the leading edge.”
Phase 1 of the project was commissioned in May 2017. Phase 2 is scheduled for completion in September 2018.
The construction of the second phase, which should begin early in 2018, will create short-term jobs for three machine operators and four labourers. Once complete, maintenance of the system will be handled by an existing worker.
- The Xeni Gwet’in community is located in the Nemiah Valley, 90 kilometres from the nearest BC Hydro grid.
- Phase 1 of the project received $250,000 in equity funding from the First Nations Clean Energy Business Fund (FNCEBF) in 2016.
- The FNCEBF provides up to $500,000 in equity funding and $50,000 for capacity funding.
- Since 2011, more than 110 First Nations communities have benefited from more than $8 million in capacity and equity funding.
- Applications for the First Nations Clean Energy Business Fund are accepted in January and May.
Xeni Gwet’in First Nation government: http://xenigwetin.net/
First Nations Clean Energy Business Fund: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/natural-resource-stewardship/consulting-with-first-nations/first-nations-clean-energy-business-fund