Remote communities gain access to real power
Even the most remote communities can access the benefits of solar power or, in this case, a solar/hydro/diesel hybrid. Canadian Solar and partners, NCC Development, recently completed a joint first by installing a hybrid PV system in northern Ontario, Canada. The 152 kW rooftop solar array was installed and connected at Deer Lake First Nation Elementary School and comprised 624 Canadian Solar CS6P-P 245 W PV modules.
The upgraded hybrid system adopts DR (demand response) technology to control switching among the different power generation generation systems: the community uses diesel generators, a small hydro plant and, now, a PV installation. But it’s about more than energy production. The system also includes a community-wide energy conservation program with software that studies the insulation of the buildings, the method and schedule of energy consumption. The smart system then develops and carries out the optimal solution to save on energy consumption.
“This is the first project connected under our dynamic strategic partnerships in a commitment to use renewable energy micro-grid solutions to assist the energy needs of off-grid First Nations and remote communities", said Dr. Shawn Qu, chairman and CEO at Canadian Solar.
"In Canada, most First Nation communities are located in remote locations and many are not easily accessible by roads. There are about 300 First Nation communities, the majority of which use diesel systems for their electricity. Many of these diesel generators have reached their designed life span,” said Dr. Qu.
The Deer Lake First Nation is a small Oji-cree community, which holds 1,653 hectares of land about 180 kilometers north of the Red Lake, Ontario. The population of approximately 1,100 is located in a remote area with no access to the national grid and, until the hybrid system was installed, relied exclusively on diesel and hydro for electricity. It pays close to $2.7 million for diesel every year to satisfy the energy need of the community.
During the coldest days in winter, First Nations are often forced to close their schools and public buildings, due to diesel shortages. In addition, their existing diesel generator systems do not have enough load capacity to meet the rising energy demands of their growing community. Solar/diesel hybrids may well solve this problem.
"Solar is a green, flexible, low-cost and sustainable energy solution with significant potential for under-served rural areas. We are proud of our involvement in this effort and the positive impact we will have on so many families,” as Dr. Qu wrote on his LinkedIn blog.
The Deer Lake First Nation community now enjoys the following specific benefits as a result of the introduction of the PV system:
- Its annual energy bill has been reduced by $92,000
- 3 part-time jobs for installation and 2 part-time jobs year-round were created
- Diesel fuel consumption is reduced by at least 31,000 liters per year
- Carbon emissions have been reduced by 99 tons annually
“This first phase of the Deer Lake First Nation project proves that solar-diesel hybrid systems can be part of the solution to the energy crisis facing the First Nations as well as other off-grid communities”, as Dr. Qu wrote.
A further 80 First Nations and remote communities in the region have been identified for potential Hybrid micro-grid solution deployment in the region.
"NCC is optimistic in moving forward with our partner Canadian Solar, as we continue to build strategic collaborative efforts with leaders in the solar and renewable energy industry to foster sustainable development of Canada's indigenous communities. As North America's largest producer of solar power solutions, Canadian Solar's industry leading experience and expertise will greatly contribute to our efforts," said Geordi Kakepetum, Chief Executive Officer of NCC Development LP.