Kluane Lake wind project to go ahead, with investment from Ottawa

'We've been working on it for a long time so we're really happy to see it come to fruition,' said Kate Ballegooyen, environmental officer for the First Nation.

Kluane First Nation plans to break ground next year on project to build 3 wind turbines

The proposed location of the Kluane First Nation's wind farm, near Kluane Lake. Three 37-metre towers will provide 300 kW of power. (Kluane First Nation)

The Kluane First Nation has received the final $1 million it needs to fund a project to build three wind turbines near Kluane Lake.

The latest investment comes through the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs's Northern REACHE program, which funds renewable energy projects in off-grid northern communities.

The federal funds, combined with a separate $1 million from the Yukon Government, complete the budget needed to build the Kluane N'Tsi (Wind) Energy Project.

"We've been working on it for a long time so we're really happy to see it come to fruition," said Kate Ballegooyen, environmental officer for the First Nation.

"It's kind of a perfect storm right now, with new federal funding coming out, and I think an overall change in tone, and sense of urgency on the renewable energy front."

The funding is contingent on the First Nation negotiating a power purchase agreement with ATCO Electric Yukon. The hope is to have that in place by February.

A heritage assessment for the Yukon Government should be completed by the spring, which will be followed by a land lease plan — the turbines will be built on Yukon government land, not First Nation settlement land.

"Those are the only regulatory hurdles we're looking at, and I think we're prepared to take those on," said Ballegooyen.

Revised models

She says the wind energy generated by the towers is expected to offset more than a quarter of the diesel used annually by Destruction Bay and Burwash Landing — about 160,000 litres per year.

A stronger Canadian dollar and lower turbine prices have allowed the First Nation to look at different models from the original proposal.

The turbines it now intends to build will be freestanding, without guy wires. This is expected to mitigate concerns raised during the Yukon Socio-Economic Assessment Board's (YESAB) review of the project. In its recommendation, YESAB acknowledged the potential for "significant" loss of local birds.

"Guy wires can be a greater cause of bird mortality than the turbines themselves," the review board wrote, in its report.

The new model is also shorter than the one originally proposed — 37 metres instead of 50 metres. The three turbines will have a combined capacity of 300 kW.

A groundbreaking ceremony is planned for National Aboriginal Day — June 21, 2018.