A new solar array and battery storage system is up and running at a remote mining exploration camp in eastern Yukon.
The 64-panel system is capable of meeting 90 per cent of the camp's electricity needs, according to Steve Rennalls, operations manager at Snowline Gold, the junior exploration company on whose property the system is located, which falls within traditional territory of the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun.
Until now, the 45-person camp depended on diesel generators for electricity – not only a costly endeavour but a noisy and environmentally unfriendly one, he said, noting that as much as 12,570 litres of diesel fuel will be displaced every year thanks to the new array.
"The savings are two-fold. There's the energy savings, in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and a reduction in burning fossil fuels, but then, of course, there's the financial savings as well," Rennalls said.
"The landed cost out where we're working is quite high. I mean, you can imagine flying [diesel fuel] in by plane."
Designed and built by Solvest, the 27-kilowatt solar array – along with an ancillary 121 kilowatt-hour battery storage system – will run on a seasonal basis, in line with camp operations.
'We're happy to share our data'
The system appears to be somewhat of a milestone.
"To our knowledge, nobody has done it at this scale and at such a remote setting," Rennalls said.
And the company isn't cagey about its new devices.
"We're not competing with other junior miners in this space," Rennalls said. "We're happy to help them operate more efficiently in a more environmentally respectful way, because that's good for the whole industry.
"We're happy to share our data … and to provide proof of concept that this is a viable alternative to the hum of a generator running 24/7 in the middle of nowhere."
Alexandra Maltais, marketing manager at Solvest, told CBC News the design of the system also marks a first.
"Our design team had to make it modular and mobile and then figure out how to get it into the site, logistically," she said. "The design requirements were really specific, so it was really a first-of-its-kind-project, as well."
The Na-Cho Nyäk Dun Development Corporation and Snowline signed a five-year lease over the solar project.
Jani Djokic, CEO of the development corporation, told CBC News the agreement represents a relationship between the two parties that's predicated on innovation.
"This specific investment is just, you know, setting a template for what can be done," she said, adding that projects like these aren't exclusive to the mining exploration industry.
"We just see this as the first of many of its kind, and, honestly, we would love to have a fleet [of systems] that we could deploy."