Read our story about building a solar energy project in Alberta to provide a remote community with solar energy and replace diesel fuel.

Fort Chipewyan is a remote Indigenous community in Northern Alberta 220 kilometers north of Fort McMurray, home to more than 1,000 people. The solar project, slated to be completed this year, is going to mean access to reliable, clean energy that will be safer for the community.

For many years now, Fort Chipewyan residents have been relying on diesel fuel for their energy, since they have no connection to disconnected from the main Albertan electrical grid. Even their access to diesel is quite limited. They have only a six-week period each year when winter roads are open and cleared so diesel can be trucked in.

Earlier this year, local energy agencies considered airlifting diesel fuel into the community because it was unsure if the winter roads were thick enough for the truck loads. The amount of traffic on the seasonal roads is also a safety concern for the community. As the Fort Chipewyan population increases and requires more energy, diesel fuel is increasingly being seen as not a viable energy option. Moreover, burning diesel is a significant contributor to air pollution.

As a result of countless hours of planning and decision making, Fort Chipewyan will soon be home to the largest off-grid solar and storage farm in both Alberta and Canada, and Polar Racking is proud to be supplying the ground-mount system for over five and a half thousand solar modules.

 

The Construction Phases for the Ground Mount Solar Project

Phase 1 was completed in June 2019 and involved a 600kW solar array located near an ATCO power station. ATCO is the local energy provider partnering with the Three Nation Energy LP, comprised of the Fort Chipewyan Métis Local 125, Mikisew Cree First Nation, and the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. These three communities are all under the municipality of Fort Chipewyan and will become one step closer to energy independence after the project is completed.

After Phase 1 was completed, the Government of Alberta invested $3.3 million for Phase 2 of the project, facilitated by its Climate Leadership Plan and the Alberta Indigenous Climate Leadership Program. The second and final phase of the project began in early 2020 and is set to produce a 2,200kW ground-mount solar array once completed.

Polar Racking has partnered with ATCO during Phase 2 to supply all the mounting and racking for the 2,200kW solar array in Alberta. Involving Canadian Companies like Polar Racking is important because we are able to easily work with the Three Nation Energy LP and ATCO for maintenance and support.

 

Solar Projects Create More Jobs in Alberta

The Fort Chipewyan solar project construction period has created more than 100 jobs in Alberta and is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 2,000 tonnes per year once the project is completed. This is the same as displacing roughly 800,000 litres of diesel fuel, annually.

The project will supply over 25% of the community’s power thereby significantly reducing their reliance on diesel fuel. Transitioning to solar energy in this Albertan community also will not increase their current electricity rates – in fact, it may reduce them.

Ground-mount solar farms also reduce environmental risk and noise pollution, while improving local and regional air quality. Besides the environmental benefits of this solar project, it is a source of revenue, independence, and pride for the community in Alberta, and we’re happy to play supporting role in supplying the ground-mount system for this project.

[statistics via ATCO website]

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