Yukon opens up power generation to communities and private sector

Three wind and solar projects in an advanced stage are poised to take advantage of the opportunities of policy changes.

Three wind and solar projects in advanced development stage poised to take advantage of opportunities

The groundbreaking for the Kluane N’tsi (Wind) Energy Project took place on National Indigenous People's Day, June 21, 2018. (Colin Asselstine)

Proponents of two independent power projects say they're excited the Yukon government has made it possible for them to sell their power to the electrical utilities Yukon Energy and ATCO Electric Yukon.

Three projects are in the advanced stages of development. One is a solar power project in Old Crow. Two others are wind farms.

Colin Asselstine, general manager of the Kluane Community Development Corporation, owned by Kluane First Nation, said after six years of work, plans to install three 100-kilowatt wind turbines near Burwash Landing are coming to fruition.

The turbines should be ready to begin producing electricity in the fall, which in turn will be sold to ATCO Electric Yukon for distribution to its customers, said Asselstine.

"We're super excited to kind of finally see that light at the end of the tunnel and we'll be very excited this fall to be cutting the ribbon and actually seeing these things produce power for our community," he said.

"We hope to to really make this an example for the Yukon as well as northern Canada."

Colin Asselstine speaking about the project in Burwash Landing in June, 2018. (Colin Asselstine)

Asselstine said the project will include 300 to 350 kilowatt hours of battery storage. He said that would include energy from the wind turbines and existing solar panels in the community.

Haeckel Hill plans

In Whitehorse,  a joint project on Haeckel Hill between the Kwanlin Dun First Nation's Chu Niikwan Development Corporation and Northern Energy Capital could reduce diesel use in Whitehorse by up to 500,000 litres per year, said Malek Tawashy, Northern Energy's president.

Malek Tawashy is the president of Whitehorse based Northern Energy Capital. (Malek Tawashy)

Tawashy said the company is replacing the old windmills at the site with one megawatt wind turbines. The project will generate between two to four megawatts, he said.

Four megawatts would provide power to about 700 homes, Tawashy said, including heating. He said wind patterns on Haeckel Hill are good.

"So when the wind is the strongest and most consistent in the winter, we produce the most power," he said.

"And that's when the most power is in demand."

Tawashy said the next step is a financial viability study.

Empowering communities

Alternate energy projects have become more financially viable due to new territorial policies.

While residents and businesses have been able to feed small amounts of self-generated power into the electric grid to reduce their costs, bigger producers were not allowed to sell their power until recently, said Shane Andre, the director of the territory's energy branch.

Independent power producers will earn roughly the dollar value of the fossil fuels that are replaced with power generated by renewable resources like solar and wind.

Shane Andre, the director of the territory's energy branch, says the policy allows for more people, communities and companies to generate and sell power to the utilities. (Dave Croft/CBC)

Andre said he expects any increase to consumers as a result of this new policy to be insignificant. 

"All new energy projects regardless of who develops them and what they are, are more expensive than legacy projects," he said.

"If we recognize that we need new energy in the territory, which I think everyone realizes we do, then the fact is these new projects are going to cost more than the old ones do," said Andre.

Yukon Energy could generate that power itself, he said, but that's not the point. 

"It's more about empowering third parties, businesses, communities, First Nations, to also help to develop projects, because we know there are a lot of great ideas, a lot of innovative projects and a lot of resources out there," said Andre.


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