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Alberta contributes $3.3M for huge solar farm in Fort Chipewyan

EDMONTON — Alberta will work with Indigenous groups in the province’s remote northeast corner on what the government says will be Canada’s largest off−the−grid solar power project.
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Alberta Minister of Indigenous Relations, Richard Feehan is sworn in as a new cabinet minister in Edmonton on February 2, 2016. Alberta is partnering with First Nations to create Canada's largest off-the-grid solar power project. It will see 7,500 solar panels erected at the power plant near the airport at Fort Chipewyan, in the remote northeastern part of Alberta. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

EDMONTON — Alberta will work with Indigenous groups in the province’s remote northeast corner on what the government says will be Canada’s largest off−the−grid solar power project.

The plan is for 7,500 solar panels to be erected at the power plant near the airport at Fort Chipewyan.

It’s expected the solar farm will be operating by next year and replace the equivalent of 800,000 litres of diesel fuel — about 25 per cent of the community’s energy use.

Alberta is contributing $3.3 million for the project with local Metis and the Athabasca Chipewyan and Mikisew Cree First Nations.

Fort Chipewyan is not connected to Alberta’s electricity grid and must burn diesel fuel for heat and power.

The project’s size and storage capacity is required because of the lack of sunlight in the winter at that latitude.

Sunlight in the region swings from about six useful hours a day in winter to 18 hours in the summer.

The battery capacity will allow excess energy to be stored for use at night and in winter periods.

The total cost of the project is $7.8 million.

"In addition to reducing costs, this project helps make life better for residents by reducing pollution and increasing safety," Indigenous Relations Minister Richard Feehan said Thursday.

The project is expected to make roads safer by reducing tanker−truck traffic.

Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam said his First Nation wants to be part of the solution to climate change.

"While our regional economy depends on the oil industry, we feel the effects of climate change in our community and see the growing impacts on our delta lands," he said.

The Canadian Press