Deer Lake First Nation installs solar panels to serve elementary school supporting community growth


Solar power system installed at Deer Lake Elementary School

Rick Garrick, March 19, 2014

Workers in Deer Lake First Nation unwrap the package containing solar panels outside the community's elementary school. The First Nation's 1,100 on-reserve citizens currently rely on a run-of-river hydro project and a diesel power plant. Deer Lake Chief Royle Meekis said the solar project will allow the community to hook up housing units to the power grid.

Deer Lake recently completed the largest solar project undertaken in the Sioux Lookout zone by installing a solar power system in the community's elementary school.

"We are always looking for alternative energy," said Deer Lake Chief Royle Meekis. "We did some research in the community and we decided we should try some solar panels to see if we can alleviate some of the load from hydro."

Deer Lake's 1,100 on-reserve citizens currently use power from a 149-kilowatt run-of-river hydro project, built in 1998 on the Severn River, and a diesel power plant.

Meekis said the solar project will enable the community to use the power that had been consumed by the school to "hook up" additional housing for community members.

"I'm hoping that we can be part of an ongoing energy saving system," Meekis said. "Maybe other communities would be more than willing to go that route if we are successful."

Meekis said the solar panel system includes batteries to store power for when the sun is down.

"Hopefully we can save fuel when the school (day) is over," Meekis said. "When you're not using the facility, you can pretty well turn everything off just so it functions."

Meekis said the run-of-river hydro project has saved the community a significant amount of money and diesel fuel over the years.

"We have to think of saving money and energy and fuel," Meekis said. "The freight (for diesel fuel) is a killer for any First Nation."

Geordi Kakepetum, CEO of NCC Development, was pleased with the groundbreaking project. NCC Development is an energy management company established by the Keewaytinook Okimakanak chiefs.

"I've been working with the chiefs to bring their vision into reality for over twenty years," said the former KO executive director. "First we had K-Net Services and then KO Medicine, KiHS and KMobile. Then, the chiefs gave me a new challenge - take the lessons learned in building the K-Net Network and come up with a solution to the diesel energy crisis faced by many remote communities."

Kakepetum said the solar project is part of three years of work by NCC Development and its partner Canadian Solar.

"Some of the First Nations we serve spend between one million and two million dollars a year transporting diesel into their communities," Kakepetum said. "This is not sustainable. There is not enough energy to build houses, public building or to support economic development."

Kakepetum said the Deer Lake Elementary School helps reduce the community's reliance on diesel fuel power plants.

"Together with Canadian Solar, NCC Development has taken the first steps towards reducing diesel consumption and replacing (it) with the power of the sun," Kakepetum said. "Today, working with our partners, we have designed a solar micro grid that will substantially reduce the use of fossil fuels in the far north."



Deer Lake First Nation cuts ribbon on solar project

Northwestern Ontario community hopes solar will power school, freeing up energy for five new homes

Posted: Apr 16, 2014 

A group of elders from the Deer Lake community cut the ribbon to mark the official unveiling of the solar array that will provide enough power to run the school in the northwestern Ontario community.

A group of elders from the Deer Lake community cut the ribbon to mark the official unveiling of the solar array that will provide enough power to run the school in the northwestern Ontario community. (Adam Burns/CBC)

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A remote First Nation in the northwest has unveiled a groundbreaking new energy project.

On Tuesday, Deer Lake First Nation cut the ribbon on a solar project that will provide enough power to run the school in the community.

Chief Royle Meekis said the project has economic and social benefits for the community of about 1,000 people, located 580 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay.

"We will save money on diesel fuel," he said, "and, in the long run, it will save some dollars that we can use for educating our children."

In addition to its diesel generator, the community has a 490-kilowatt hydro generating station, constructed in 1998.

Taking the school off the grid will also give Deer Lake enough power so that families can move into five brand-new homes that have been boarded up for years.

Saves 'a lot of money'

Geordi Kakapetum is the head of NCC Development, a company that formed three years ago to help First Nations reduce their reliance on diesel.

"They're not able to get the full, adequate power from the diesel generators that they have," Geordi Kakapetum said.

"They kinda looked at me and asked me to find ways and means on how we can begin to initiate more capacity at the community level."

As part of that process, two Canadian companies - Jazz Solar and Canadian Solar - installed 624 solar panels on the Deer Lake School's roof.

"This is a first step towards an energy program that'll help the First Nation save a lot of money, and what they typically burn in diesel fuel in powering the community," said Jazz Solar operations manager KyleEdgington.

Kakapetum said the Deer Lake project is only the first step in plans to establish solar capacity across the north.

This summer, he hopes to start another project in Fort Severn First Nation, Ontario's most northern community.


Press Release

April 16, 2014

Canadian Solar and NCC Complete Diesel Hybrid PV Installation serving First Nation Community

Canadian Solar Inc. (the "Company", or "Canadian Solar") CSIQ +2.62% , one of the world's largest solar power companies, today announced the completion of the first diesel hybrid PV system in the remote microgrids in northern Ontario, Canada. The 152kW rooftop solar array on the Deer Lake First Nation Elementary School, completed by Canadian Solar with its supplier partners, is the first project under the strategic partnership with NCC Development, LP ("NCC"), a First Nation renewable energy management company, in a commitment to use renewable energy (RE) microgrid solutions to assist the energy needs of off-grid First Nations and remote communities.

Serving the First Nations of Deer Lake, Fort Severn, Keewaywin, North Spirit Lake, Poplar Hill and McDowell Lake located in northern Ontario, NCC has identified more than 80 First Nations and remote communities for potential RE microgrid solution deployment, in an effort to promote photovoltaic services and projects to areas heavily reliant on diesel and challenged by limited access to electricity.

"NCC is optimistic in moving forward with our partner Canadian Solar, as we continue to build strategic collaborative efforts with leaders in the solar and renewable energy industry to foster sustainable development of Canada's indigenous communities. As North America's largest producer of solar power solutions, Canadian Solar's industry leading experience and expertise will greatly contribute to our efforts," said Geordi Kakepetum, Chief Executive Officer of NCC Development LP.

"Our partnership with NCC started 3 years ago. It underscores our strong commitment to Canada, helping to bring solar power to areas previously unable to get connected to the grid. Solar is a green, flexible, low-cost, and sustainable energy solution for these underserved First Nations and other rural areas. We are proud of our involvement in this important effort and the direct impact we will have on so many deserving families," commented Dr. Shawn Qu, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Canadian Solar Inc.

"To reduce peak load and connect five more homes, we developed a three-part plan, including conservation, load shifting, and installing a PV solar system. This is important not only for the families who are waiting to move into these new houses, but for all of Deer Lake," said Chief Royale Meekis, the leader of Deer Lake First Nation during a ribbon cutting ceremony. Deer Lake First Nation aims to eventually replace 50% of their diesel consumption with the RE microgrid retrofit solution. The focus of the partners in developing RE microgrid solutions is also to help to build much needed additional clean energy capacity, and to support future economic development in the communities.

About Canadian Solar

Founded in 2001 in Canada, Canadian Solar Inc.  CSIQ +2.62% is one of the world's largest and foremost solar power companies. As a leading vertically integrated provider of solar modules, specialized solar products and solar power plants with operations in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Australia, and Asia, Canadian Solar has delivered more than 6 GW of premium quality solar modules to customers in over 70 countries. Canadian Solar is committed to improve the environment and dedicated to provide advanced solar energy products, solutions, and services to enable sustainable development around the world. For more information, please visit .

About NCC Development LP

Formed in 2012 with the investment of six First Nations, NCC Development LP has, in a short period of time, become a significant First Nation renewable energy management company specialized in serving the renewable energy needs of First Nations and remote communities, starting in northern Ontario, and in facilitating the participation of First Nations in building locally owned renewable energy assets. NCC has collaborated with Canadian Solar to pursue First Nations projects across northern Canada, including in First Nations communities and for resource extraction industries operating on First Nation territories.