In the fall of 2015, the Village Council of Northern Village of Green Lake, Saskatchewan chose a delegation to attend the First Nations Energy Forum, in Saskatoon in order to investigate the potential of developing a renewable energy project that would suit the needs of their village, the largest in Canada by size – and, at just 500, amongst the smallest by population
By the spring of 2016, a feasibility study and business plan had already been prepared and it was recommended that the village explore ways of developing a Solar Photovoltaic project to be constructed on the Green Lake Community Hall.
MiEnergy was contracted to install the panels and today a 31.5 kw Solar System, owned and operated by the village, generates power on the roof of the hall.
Quick as this seems — this can largely be credited to the tremendous amount of support for the project in the community as a whole and the diligence of those individuals entrusted with making it happen — a lot of vision and planning were required to get the project up and running.
Northern Village of Green Lake is located 300 kilometers North of Saskatoon in the Northern Boreal Forest, located in an area rich in Metis history and culture, and is the third oldest community in Saskatchewan.
The obstacles this sustainability goal presented to a remote community, with a population of just under 500 are obvious. Raising the funds for capital projects of this nature is no small feat and of course there were the hurdles that plague any project of this nature. The building, for example, required some wiring changes to support the system, but the community dealt with these issues as they arose and kept the project on track.
Despite their relatively small permanent population, the community was able to raise a portion of the funds themselves and they also applied for and received both provincial and federal support as well as some private sector support from Ontario. The federal government’s Canada 150 program provided just under $60,000.
Exploring solar power was a natural option for a community both committed to long term sustainability and tired of frequent power outages, no trivial events in -20 weather. These outages, however, were not the only incentive Green Lake had for pursuing the solar power option. In the words of the project managers, “This initiative takes advantage of the substantial opportunity of using Nature to produce electricity, to reduce energy costs and our carbon footprint, while aligning with Cultural considerations of our predominantly Aboriginal population.”
To many of the village’s residents, the investments feel rooted in the history, heritage and Culture of Indigenous people of Northern Saskatchewan.
As Ric Richardson, the mayor of Green Lake, told CBC Radio’s Saskatchewan Weekend “We’re Métis, so we understand the use of nature and all that surrounds us in order to find a way forward.”
At present, Northern Village of Green Lake is already considering ways of implementing other solar opportunities in several of their municipal systems. The possibility of solar powering their water and sewer treatment, street lighting, municipal shops are all being investigated and the prospect of developing a Grid-tied Solar Farm that would help generate much needed revenue for community is also being discussed.
While Green Lake is the first municipality in Saskatchewan to own its own Renewable Energy system, they very much hope there success will be a model to other Northern communities.
“The experiences of Green Lake’s progress can help others to achieve renewable energy goals” – they say “the future is Bright, in Northern Saskatchewan!”