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The sun shines on Gull Bay

Lake Nipigon-area First Nation throws the switch on solar micro grid project
Gull Bay First Nation solar farm

A new solar-powered micro grid project is now online at Gull Bay First Nation (Kiashke Zaaging Anishinaabek) in northwestern Ontario.

The project partners, the First Nation and Ontario Power Generation (OPG), co-developed a community micro grid that uses solar, battery storage and automated control technology to help reduce diesel use by as much as 30 per cent.

Known as the Giizis Energy Solar Storage Micro Grid, the project involves ground-mounted solar panels, lithium-ion batteries, and a sophisticated control system linking more than 1,000 panels and over 80 battery modules with the community’s distribution system.

The $8-million project was funded by OPG, Hydro One, and federal and provincial levels of government.

The community of 300 is located 175 kilometres north of Thunder Bay on the western shore of Lake Nipigon.

Until this project, Gull Bay members relied entirely on diesel-generated electricity and was one of four remote First Nation communities in Ontario that could not be economically connected to the grid.

The project’s general contractor was Alltrade Industrial.

The First Nation’s development corporation, Ma’iingan Development, will be responsible for the operations and maintenance.

It’s OPG fifth development project with an Indigenous community and first distribution-scale solar installation.

“In the last few weeks as we went into full operations we have already reduced over 12,000 litres of diesel with clean, renewable solar power,” said Chief Wilfred King in an Aug. 16 statement.

“The impact of the Giizis Energy Solar Storage Micro Grid is significant and substantive, including: community-centred economic development and jobs; community infrastructure improvement, a healthier community; diesel and GHG reduction, and a stronger Kiashke Zaaging Anishinaabek community.”

“This innovative project will help reduce the burning of diesel fuel and will integrate renewable solar generation and energy storage into the community’s existing power system,” said Paul Giardetti, OPG’s vice-president of northwestern Ontario.