ARCHIVED - A Green Energy Dream Comes True!

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The Taku River Tlingit First Nation in northern British Columbia is investing in green technology to generate electricity that is cost effective, efficient and gentle on the environment.

Taku River Tlingit First Nation micro-hydro project.
Taku River Tlingit First Nation micro-hydro project. (Photo by: Shari-Lynn MacLellan)

On April 1, 2009, they opened their micro-hydro project, which produces a continuous supply of electrical energy to the remote community by harnessing the flow of water.

"It's been a long time – we've been working on this project for eight years, but it's been a lot of fun!" said T.J. Esquiro, the Director of Xeitl Limited Partnership. He gets excited when he talks about how the "run-of-the-river" hydro project works.

"Micro-hydro projects are far less obtrusive than conventional hydro-electric dams," he says. "They do not necessarily require the damming of rivers, or the flooding of valleys to form reservoirs. All you need is volume and a drop - Pine Creek, near Atlin, provides both."

The federal Aboriginal and Northern Community Action Program (ANCAP) has provided $750,000 in funding for the project. In addition, provincial green energy programs have helped the First Nation leverage the money needed to build the project.

Taku River, Yukon. (Photo by: Shari-Lynn MacLellan)

Xeitl Limited Partnership runs the micro-hydro project and is owned by the Taku River Tlingit First Nation. "Xeitl" is a Tlingit word meaning "lightning" or "power". Peter Kirby, the CEO of Xeitl, is proud of their success. "The independent engineer hired by the financing company told us this is the best project he has seen in 25 years of doing these types of projects," Kirby says.

The 'run-of-the-river' project is expected to result in significant environmental savings too. It is estimated that by utilising the more energy-efficient micro-hydro technology, green house gas emissions could be reduced by as much as 4,500 tonnes every year.

The First Nation expects to spend the next decade repaying the project's capital costs. However, while doing so it will generate enough revenue from the excess power it produces to make a small annual profit. The Taku River Tlingit First Nation is consulting with its members on how the money should be spent. "This project is a great way of making money that will stay in the community," says Stuart Simpson, the Manager of Xeitl.

T.J. Esquiro showing visitors the Micro Hydro Project facility.
T.J. Esquiro showing visitors the Micro Hydro Project facility. (Photo by: Shari-Lynn MacLellan)

"This is, as far as I know, the first 100 per cent Aboriginal-owned hydro project in the world," says Kirby. He adds that the project demonstrates that small First Nations can build and operate big projects and, in so doing, work towards becoming self-sufficient. "If you have a good core of people in your community, you can do these projects," he says.   

Throughout the development of this project an incredible level of capacity has been developed among local Taku River Tlingit citizens. Twenty-five people were employed during the construction of the project and local citizens maintain and run the hydro-project.  

"Our dream of having a locally owned and operated micro-hydro plant has come true," says Kirby.

A number of other Yukon and Northern BC First Nations are now looking to the Taku River Tlingit for guidance and advice on how to develop their own renewable energy projects. The project is also generating national and international interest as an example of how a small community can develop a project to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote local ownership and support local employment.


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