Fort Chipewyan: The Road to Energy Independence
Phase Two of Canada’s Largest Off-grid Solar Community is Underway
Local Indigenous communities in Fort Chipewyan long had a vision of transitioning into a cleaner, self-sustaining community with respect to their energy generation. In October of this year, this vision will become a reality, when the second and final phase of the Fort Chip Off-grid Solar Project is completed. This exciting and inspiring project is the culmination of three years of hard work and will see the remote Northern Albertan community become the home of the largest off-grid solar and storage microgrid project in Canada. ATCO is proud to play a key role in bringing this vision to life.
Three Nations Energy (3NE) & ATCO: Charting the Path to a Sustainable Future
In January 2020, construction began on Phase 2 of the solar project, following the delivery of infrastructure materials such as the solar panels and a massive battery storage system, via regional ice roads that wind through Boreal forest, over frozen rivers, and across the Peace-Athabasca Delta, accessible for a brief window of time each year.
In search of a more sustainable energy model to accommodate the community’s growth and evolving energy needs, 3NE partnered with ATCO to develop plans for a cleaner energy solution that reduced diesel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
Phase one of the project marked the first stage of a fundamental transition from the community’s reliance on diesel, and was successfully energized in late summer of 2019.
Phase two of the project includes:
- 2,200 kW solar farm, for which ATCO is the prime engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contactor; owned by 3NE (Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Mikisew Cree First Nation, and Fort Chipewyan Métis Local 125)
- 1,600 kWh Battery Energy Storage System to store excess energy and provide grid reliability; owned and operated by ATCO
- Microgrid control system; owned and operated by ATCO
When fully operational, the project will meet 25% of Fort Chip’s electricity needs, displace an estimated 800,000 litres of diesel annually (a 25% reduction), minimize emissions by 2,145 tonnes a year, and reduce the safety risks associated with transporting diesel to the region.
Sunny Skies Ahead
While the project’s environmental benefits are impressive, of equal importance are the positive socio-economic impacts felt amongst the neighbouring Indigenous communities of Fort Chipewyan. The project enables long-term community ownership and self-sustaining economic development, driven by job creation, investment in owned infrastructure, and revenue from the sale of clean, renewable energy.
Part of ATCO’s ongoing mission is to be at the forefront of opportunities that lead the way in energy transition and provide customers with sustainable, reliable energy alternatives. Upon completion, ATCO will have been involved at every stage of the project’s lifecycle --from early days of conception and stakeholder consultation, through to design, engineering, construction, operations, and maintenance.
Collaboration has also been a key factor in advancing the project; not just within the community, but with industry partners we rely on to bring their unique perspectives and complimentary expertise. ATCO is thrilled to have teamed up with peers such as Clark Builders for civil and mechanical work and ABB for their Battery Energy Storage System.
Looking to the future, ATCO is eager to apply similar models to the Fort Chipewyan Off-Grid Solar Project elsewhere, bringing new energy models to life for other remote communities.
To learn more about ATCO’s energy stewardship and Indigenous partnerships, read our 2019 Sustainability Report.