Île-à-la-Crosse solar panels fuel community greenhouses
- NC Raine | September 29, 2021
A new project in Île-à-la-Crosse is providing green power to the community school while powering young minds.
Before leaping into summer holidays, students at Rossignol High School in Île-à-la-Crosse spent the end of their school year installing 120 state of the art, two-sided solar panels, adjacent to the school. The panels, provided by W Dusk Energy, a First Nations energy company from British Columbia, will offset the energy load to the school's greenhouse, which previously ran on propane.
“As Indigenous people, the wind and solar are natural, green sources, so it connects nicely with Indigenous ways of knowing and being. It's honouring a source of power that's been here forever, and we're able to have our students not only participate in learning about it, but being actively involved,” said Brenda Green, Director of Education at Île-à-la-Crosse School Division.
According to W Dusk Energy, the panels will produce 80 megawatt hours annually – about seven to eight times the amount a typical home requires.
The school division received $120,000 in funding for the project from the provincial government, said Île-à-la-Crosse Mayor Duane Favel.
“Running a greenhouse in the winter months is very expensive. Those costs were skyrocketing, so we had to find alternative ways to produce energy,” Favel.
“When we talk about climate change and these type of things, we're trying to explore different ways of producing energy. Introducing students to solar and alternative energy is important… We hope the students get to the level where they want to start exploring careers in this field,” he said.
The high school students in math and physics classes participated daily in the installation of the panels, and science teachers at the school incorporated related lessons about solar and renewable energy, Green said.
The entire project took about two weeks to complete, which was longer than expected because of power outages in the neighbourhood, which underscored the value of reliable and renewable energy.
“It's a beautiful technology, and one that really resonates with the values of our communities and Indigenous worldview. It's in harmony with those principles – mainly, non-extractive, not harming our local land, earth, and resources. I like to say, it's something our ancestors would have chosen,” said David Isaac, President of W Dusk Energy.
Saskatchewan has the highest rated solar potential in Canada, making the province the gem of solar resources in the country, Isaac said. He hopes the project sparks something in the young minds in the community.
“Having the solar panels at the school is symbolic, and important as well, because it's this next generation. I've seen a huge change in the youth, in terms of how aware they are of environmental issues and renewables. It creates this inspiration factor that's amazing to see,” said Isaac.
Students will also be able to see real-time, tangible evidence of the solar energy at work. A large screen at the school, as well as a free app offered to the students, displays data on things like how much CO2 emissions have been offset, how many cars are off the road or trees planted, as an environmental impact of the solar panels.
The community is already looking at ways to expand, with conversations started about a solar farm that could power 250 to 350 homes in Île-à-la-Crosse. It's the way of the future, but also ingrained in the past, said Isaac.
“Projects like these, the more we get up, the more it pushes policy towards localized, Indigenous, clean, renewable energy. That's really what the future looks like,” he said. “Each community that does a project like this opens up the possibilities and helps create this next wave of change.”