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Ottawa will invest about $4.1 million into solar energy projects in five Nunavut communities to help cut reliance on diesel to generate electricity.

The announcement was made Wednesday in Nunavut by Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal. The initiative is expected to create jobs and revenue for the five communities, plus cut their greenhouse gas emissions and their reliance on costly diesel.

Pond Inlet, the municipality of Clyde River and the hamlets of Whale Cove and Grise Fiord are expected to use the funding to add solar panels within the next three years. The hamlet of Arctic Bay is also expected to install solar panels with the funding but did not specify a completion date.

These five projects will replace the energy burned from 180,000 litres of diesel a year, the federal government estimates, which is expected to offset about 453 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year. That’s about the same amount of greenhouse gas emitted annually from 99 cars.

At least 200 remote communities across Canada rely on emissions-heavy diesel as their primary source of power, according to a Natural Resources Canada database. Diesel is costly, too — the retail price for diesel to heat a home climbed above $2.30 per litre in some Nunavut communities last year.

The projects include a 120-kilowatt solar panel system in Clyde River and a 100-kilowatt solar panel system in the Grise Fiord — a community that sits about 1,500 kilometres north of Iqaluit. The hamlets of Whale Cove and Arctic Bay are expected to position their solar panel projects on community hockey arenas.

“The community will own its own clean-energy power source with no noise, no emissions, and no vibrations,” Arctic Bay Mayor Moses Oyukuluk said in a press release. “Clean electricity generation is crucial in reducing diesel use, which will benefit the environment and provide cost savings for the community.”

The largest solar panel installation, valued at about $1 million, is a 150-kilowatt array on top of Pond Inlet’s community hall.

The funding is related to the federal government’s Wah-ila-toos initiative. The initiative is led by a council of Indigenous energy advisers and offers $300 million over the next four years to fund clean energy projects in Indigenous, rural and remote communities in Canada.

Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal announced a $4.1-million investment in solar panel projects as part of an initiative to support clean energy projects in the North.

In a press release, Vandal said the five communities building solar panels were “leading the way” for other communities in Nunavut to cut their reliance on diesel.

“Inuit communities, which are experiencing some of the harshest impacts of climate change, know how best to address the challenges they face,” Vandal said. “We're proud to support these projects led by the North, for the North.”

Isaac Phan Nay / Canada’s National Observer / Local Journalism Initiative

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I hope the 5 communities with solar funding are below the arctic circle and escape the 6 months of darkness. Wind blows at night so maybe that would have been a better choice and easier on the required storage batteries.

Seriously, if they can ever sort out modular nuclear reactors or geo thermal, that is what Canad'a's north needs, if the locals want a life style like the south of the country.

Solar energy in Nunavut is only good for six months of the year. They will still rely on diesel fuel for the time that the sun doesn't shine.

True. But having to rely on diesel half the time is better than all the time. Plus, it said the biggest of these was $1 million. It also said these things will average saving 180,000 litres of diesel/year, and diesel up there costs like $2.30/litre. So that's $414,000 per year. At that rate, these things will pay for themselves in under 3 years. Kind of a no-brainer.

Once they're saving four hundred grand a year, maybe they'll have the fiscal room to come up with some kind of geothermal or wind or storage solution for the winter.

As per the above comments, battery storage and wind or geothermal should be part of the consideration. Iron air and liquid metal batteries aren't quite fully on the market yet, so perhaps big stacks of lithium iron phosphate batteries would be a great way to store power for a few days at a time. Li-fe-po is safer than li-ion, which uses cobalt and has a greater capacity to grow dendrites and cause fires.

As long as stable, deep granitic rock strata is present under the Arctic island archipelago, a deep geothermal power pilot project could be conducted.

The summertime insolation is phenomenal in the Arctic, great for solar greenhouse crops. I believe it's possible to grow two specialized crop rotations or more in the land of the summer midnight sun. With an additional zero emission power source it's possible to add lights and geothermal heating for winter. Greenhouses will have to be designed for the high Arctic with steeply angled triple or quadruple glazing on the south facade (possibly with insulated moveable panels dropped into place at sunset in the shoulder and off-seasons) and super-insulated roofs, side walls and floor slabs. The cost? Well, how much does it cost to regularly ship fresh veggies and fruit 2,000 km from the south?

With a little imagination, this could be an expanded federal pilot project.