First Nation granted almost $500K for school solar-power project to reduce reliance on diesel

·3 min read
The Kwadacha First Nation's Aatse Davie School  will receive $486,000 for installing solar panels to help transition from diesel and propane to renewable energy.  (Aatse Davie School/Facebook - image credit)
The Kwadacha First Nation's Aatse Davie School will receive $486,000 for installing solar panels to help transition from diesel and propane to renewable energy. (Aatse Davie School/Facebook - image credit)

A First Nation community school in northern B.C. has been granted provincial funds for a solar energy project that aims to reduce reliance on fossil-fuel generators.

As part of its CleanBC emissions reduction initiative, the B.C. government says its Renewable Energy for Remote Communities program is providing $486,000 to the K-12 Aatse Davie School of the Kwadacha First Nation in Fort Ware, B.C., about 570 kilometres north of Prince George.

Kwadacha and two other remote First Nations — the Lhoosk'uz Dené in the Cariboo and the Hesquiaht on western Vancouver Island — are together receiving $1.8 million in provincial financial support to transition from diesel, an energy source the communities have relied on because they have no access to the electricity grid.

Angela Hocken, a language teacher at Aatse Davie School and a band councillor of the Kwadacha First Nation, says the school — currently powered by diesel and propane power generators — will be able to save more than $12,000 annually by using solar panels.

Angela Hocken, a language teacher at Aatse Davie School and a band councillor of Kwadacha First Nation, says the solar energy project will be a good form of education to the school's students.
Angela Hocken, a language teacher at Aatse Davie School and a band councillor of Kwadacha First Nation, says the solar energy project will be a good form of education to the school's students.(Kwadacha First Nation)

Hocken says the 100-kilowatt solar energy project, which will cost a total of $496,000, is also a form of education.

"Having this solar power installed at school will allow the students to further their knowledge in energy efficiency and support the Indigenous ideology of protecting Mother Earth within a global perspective," Hocken told Carolina de Ryk, host of CBC's Daybreak North.

"The project allows the students to monitor the amount of energy being produced and being used by the school. The students will get to learn that having the solar power limits the amount of CO2 pollution in our atmosphere and having this solar power saves 85,000 kilograms of CO2 pollution [per year]."

The province's announcement says by funding renewable energy programs in diesel-dependent remote communities that are mostly Indigenous, the RERC program helps further the province's commitment of reconciliation with First Nations.

The $875,000 contribution to the Lhoosk'uz Dené Nation is going toward a $2.2-million biomass combined heat and power project, while the Hesquiaht First Nation is receiving $419,000 to partly fund a 136-kilowatt solar energy system installation on community school property in Hot Springs Cove.

"Our CleanBC goal is to reduce diesel consumption for power generation in remote communities by 80 per cent by 2030," said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources in a press release.

"By building partnerships and creating opportunities with Indigenous communities and businesses, we can help remote communities get off diesel and benefit from more efficient, healthier and cleaner fuel sources."

Hocken says she isn't sure when the solar panel installation will begin, but hopes the school will be powered by solar energy in the next academic year.

Kwadacha First Nation Chief Darryl McCook says if the Aatse Davie School's solar energy project is successful, the band will consider expanding the use of solar energy to the entire reserve.

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