Going Green: Green Lake, Sask., moving to solar power due to frequent outages

Green Lake, Sask. will make its move to greener energy in May when the community unveils its array of solar panels.

Mayor estimates there are two or three powers outages per month

A rendition of what the panels will look like once they're installed and unveiled later in May. (Supplied by Green Lake village)

An unreliable power grid, high costs of energy and frequent power outages have prompted the northern Saskatchewan village of Green Lake to flip the switch to solar energy. 

"We're Métis, so we understand the use of nature and all that surrounds in order to find a way forward," Ric Richardson told CBC Radio's Saskatchewan Weekend on Sunday. 

The solar panels will be owned and operated by the village and will be installed later this month before their unveiling in May. Currently, electricity is provided to the community by SaskPower, which maintains power lines and poles. 

Richardson is the mayor of Green Lake. 

He estimates there are about two or three outages per month in the northern Saskatchewan community.

Some of them are lengthy due to the landscape of the area, which includes forest and what he described as "rugged" terrain — a problem which is only exacerbated during the winter.

Hundreds of kilometres worth of power line and hundreds of poles — many of which are in remote areas of the province — mean in the event of a power outage it could be hours before the source of the problem is discovered, let alone repaired. 

Richardson recalled one outage which lasted several hours when the temperatures were around –20 C. 

"People were ultimately getting sick as a result of no proper heating in their home," he said.

Raising funds was one of the biggest challenges, Richardson said, adding the province helped with a portion of the costs. The community has received both federal support and private sector support from Ontario worth $20,000.

The federal government's Canada 150 program provided "just under" $60,000. The province has a program in place which provides up to $20,000 on a $100,000 project, Richardson added.

The cost of the development has been about $137,000, Richardson said. The project itself has been years in the making, so the community has been able to raise enough funds to cover their portion of the costs, which Richardson said is less than $50,000, saved up over time. 

The first phase will power the community centre with about 31 kilowatts of energy, Richardson estimates. 

"That will be grid-tied," Richardson said, adding the province is administering a net metering plan.

"All of the power that we produce will go into the grid but anything that we produce over what we use, we will be able to draw back at no cost, at times when there isn't a lot of sun."

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatchewan Weekend