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Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation enters the power business

The Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation, an isolated community in the Northwest Territories, is celebrating becoming the first independent power producer in all three territories.

Community turns on solar array after 1-year delay

Solar power array in Lutsel K'e, N.W.T. The community is celebrating becoming the first independent power producer in the territory with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday. (submitted by Arctic Energy Alliance)

The Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation, an isolated community in the Northwest Territories, is celebrating becoming the first independent power producer in all three territories.

Over the past two years the community of about 300 people constructed a $350,000 35 kilowatt solar array with the help of Bullfrog Power — a green energy provider. The community also signed a power purchase agreement with the Northwest Territories Power Corporation. The company agreed to pay a fee to the community for the diesel its solar array offsets.

"We are the first in the N.W.T. to produce power and sell it to the power corporation," said Agatha Laboucan, the senior administrative officer in Lutsel K'e. 

The 35 kilowatt solar array cost $350,000 to construct. (submitted by Agatha Laboucan)

"The land here is very important to our members," she said.

"By producing solar power that actually has limited harm to the land made it easy for our members to accept the project."

The solar array was set to be switched on in April 2015, but Laboucan said a wiring problem delayed commissioning of the project. It was finally turned on in March of this year.

The array was also projected to generate 20 per cent of the community's power needs, but Laboucan said that number may be closer to 10 or 15 per cent. Solar power generation is weather-dependent, so she said the community will have to wait and see how the first year of operation goes.

Despite these questions, the community already has a plan for the money it will get from the power corporation.

"The funds that we receive from what's generated will go into a green energy fund to be used for future renewable energy projects for the community," Laboucan said. 

The community will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday at the site.

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