Solar power provides a clean alternative energy source in the North America Arctic. Photo: The Arctic Institute, design by Davey Barnwell
In March 2017, The Arctic Institute in partnership with Yukon College, the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER), and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, with support from the U.S. Mission to Canada held a two-day workshop in Whitehorse, Yukon on the future of Arctic entrepreneurship. Bringing together dozens of interested stakeholders, the workshop featured roundtable discussions, based around the foundational dimensions that make a successful renewable energy project, namely, (1) How to overcome technical challenges to develop a project; (2) How stakeholders ensure Indigenous and community engagement; (3) How to ensure the financial commitment necessary for a project; and (4) How policy is either changed or enhanced to promote small-scale renewable energy projects.
Working with experts, academics, government officials, Indigenous leaders, and energy practitioners, the symposium between Canadian and American participants facilitated a much-needed best practice sharing of how to move the Arctic towards a green, innovative economy. The infographic available for download below highlights basic information and takeaways from one of the four roundtable discussions on Solar Energy.
Workshop Takeaways on Solar Energy
Planning & Policy
- There are different contexts across North America with different economic and institutional drivers for solar energy. There are 92 utilities in rural Alaska, whereas Canada has quasi-governmental utilities for each territory. Know your local context.
- Building small-scale pilot projects is not enough. Governments need to invest in creating regulatory, supportive policies to guide communities.
- Plan to integrate solar energy into communal spaces first, like a community center or waste facility, and then move to wider adoption.
- All plans must be based on feasibility studies, with an eye towards field replication opportunities.
- Education. Education. Education. Convincing community members solar is an option that has advantages in the north, educating regulators who have not yet dealt with solar, and educating a workforce that generally has less experiences in solar installation.
- Local engagement can start with discussions of the local benefits of surplus generation in the long summer days.
- Building solar integration into a community’s long term vision of its goals can be an important path towards community buy-in of needed investments. One idea is to incorporate a vision of self-sufficiency.
- Include long term operational maintenance and training of community members in early discussions of solar projects, including safety procedures of disconnects, placarding, and fires. This can build local employment opportunities and technical skills.
Financing & Technology
- Consider an integrated system of solar technology with other renewable energy options, like wind or biomass, from the start, so energy projection is not season-limited.
- Create a business model based on savings and self-sustainability to allow an easier partnership with local utility companies.
- 100% community ownership in a high growth industry can help with 100% community buy-in.
- Think outside of the box. Take advantage of government and other deployment grants available for solar in other parts of North America.
Bottom Line: What’s needed?
- A clearinghouse for new technology developments to share success stories and centrally locate information, funding options, and technical assistance resources.
- Public funding so that smaller communities with limited grant writing resources can overcome competition for currently available grant money.
- Lower-cost, robust storage solutions for remote communities, both electrical and thermal storage.
- Optimize current systems. Communities can’t install significant solar energy systems on a limited grid with no place to send the extra power and expect that it is going to work in the existing infrastructure.
This is our third installment on renewable energy in and for the Arctic. You can find other infographics below: