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  • Monday, January 23, 2023
  • Rich Culture, Renewable Communities and Deeper Connections Round Out the Final ARENA Onsite Program 

Experiencing Canada’s Arctic, and the impact of Yukon’s first remote high-penetration First Nations-owned solar project in the territory’s most remote community was the highlight in the final installment of the 2022-2023 Arctic Remote Energy Networks Academy

ARENA is a unique circumpolar knowledge-sharing program about isolated power systems integration. It is held in partnership with Canada, Gwich’in Council International, the United States and Iceland. ARENA is designed specifically for community energy champions living and working in remote circumpolar Arctic communities.

The 2023 ARENA Canada onsite program was hosted by Polar Knowledge Canada, with support from the Gwich’in Council International, and ACEP. Ten members of the ARENA cohort convened in Whitehorse, Yukon, for the final onsite program. The cohort was joined by energy leaders, developers and community members, as well as ARENA’s Alaska, Iceland, and Canada program organizers and delegates from Gwich’in Council International and the Arctic Council. They enjoyed a culturally rich, deep dive into isolated energy development in Canada. 

The program agenda included flying to the remote Vuntut Gwich’in community of Old Crow, population 221, located 70 miles above the Arctic Circle, and enjoying generous hospitality by community members for two days. Erika Tizya-Tramm, a 2017 ARENA alum, shared her community of Old Crow with the participants and led discussions of the importance of locally owned, renewable energy to the Vuntut people.

The event participants toured the 940 kilowatt east-west facing solar photovoltaic energy farm, including a 480 kW inverter and 616 kW/675 kilovolt-amp battery energy storage system. The goal of the solar installation is to displace 190,000 liters of diesel and 2,000 diesel engine hours annually. The solar project is a public-private partnership between the Vuntut Gwich’in Government and the territory-owned ATCO Electric Yukon distribution utility. The solar panels are owned and maintained by VGG, and the battery, control system, inverter, boiler and PV site integration system are owned and operated by ATCO through a 25-year power purchase agreement. 

Other activities in Old Crow included roundtable discussion about the VGG and ATCO partnership and lessons learned around the challenges and solutions to developing a renewable energy project in a remote Yukon community. Visiting the John Tizya Cultural Center provided the cohort insight into the rich cultural history of the area, and a caribou-skinning demonstration, a snowmachine tour and a cultural fireside talk in a remote cabin impressed the importance of caribou, storytelling and language in the Gwich’in culture.  

A visit to the road-accessed community of Teslin, located on the Alaska Highway in Yukon, showcased the Tlingit community’s biomass energy program. It is widely credited with being visionary in its pursuit and early adoption of sustainable energy in Canada. The community’s forest management plan, boiler operations and wood storage, plus a conversation of what “renewable energy” means to the Teslin Tlingit Council and the broader community rounded out the field trips and community visits. 

In Whitehorse, community energy presentations from Alaska and Canada, including Yukon Energy, wrapped up the week of knowledge sharing. Dog mushing and glass blowing showcased local events in the vibrant community.

The 2022-2023 ARENA program may have ended, but the relationship-building and networking will continue. As members of the cohort return to their own communities, they will work to build energy projects using the knowledge gained through the yearlong program, with the assistance and support from their mentors and the energy leaders and experts they have met throughout the program.

For more information on the ARENA program, please visit https://arena.alaska.edu/.

 

The 2022-2023 Arctic Remote Energy Networks Academy cohort attended the Canada onsite program. Photo courtesy of Amanda Byrd.