Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation administration building goes solar

Mayo, Yukon, does not see a lot of sunshine through the depths of winter. But in summer, it's a different story — with almost round-the-clock daylight.

That's why the Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation is banking on solar power to cut its power bills and its carbon footprint through the summer months. It's installed an array of solar panels on the roof of its administrative building.

"With a building of this size, we needed to be cost efficient," said Joella Hogan, the First Nation's heritage manager.

The building was first planned in the early 2000s, she said, and the idea was always to find alternative sources of energy, to "reflect our vision and ethics as stewards of the land."

"This year there was an opportunity that came up for us to put the solar panels on the roof... finally."

Sid Smarch, who's in charge of infrastructure for the First Nation, said the 88 panels can produce about 27 kW of energy on a peak day. 

That won't be enough to power the building year-round. There's no system to store the energy for the darker months. But, some days, there may be enough power to be fed into the grid, Smarch said.

"We're actually working with Yukon Energy to put a meter in our building that will measure energy both going in and coming out of our building. So we'll be able to get energy rebates through that," he said.

The First Nation had also planned to explore geothermal energy options, but Hogan said that idea hit some "roadblocks and just some technical challenges."

"So right now, solar will be where we're focusing and hopefully we'll be able to get back on track with geothermal."