Due to its extreme northern location, the Canadian territory of Nunavut heavily relies on imported fossil fuels for power generation. However, a promising change is underway in one community called Sanikiluaq, situated on the Belcher Islands in Hudson Bay.

After careful planning, an energy purchase agreement was recently signed between Nunavut’s Crown electrical utility and Nunavut Nukkiksautiit Corporation (NNC), an Inuit-owned renewable energy developer. The agreement aims to construct a 1 MW wind turbine and a 1 MWh battery storage system in order to reduce the town’s diesel consumption by half.

Sanikiluaq has approximately 1,000 residents.

Due to Nunavut’s lack of connection to a power grid, diesel fuel is shipped during summer to prepare for the long winter season. This reliance on diesel poses challenges in terms of pollution, cost, and control over energy sources for the people residing in the region.

This issue is not limited to Nunavut alone. Off-grid communities in Labrador, the Northwest Territories, Yukon, and Nunavik (the Inuit homeland in Quebec) also heavily depend on diesel.

However, according to NNC director Heather Shilton, these communities have the untapped potential to transition to renewable power.

How the Sanikiluaq wind project will work

While wind energy may not be an obvious choice to those outside Nunavut, it was the most logical option for Sanikiluaq due to its windy climate. The NNC conducted extensive testing to ensure the viability of a wind turbine in Sanikiluaq.

The project’s revenue, generated by selling energy back to the utility, will be shared with local residents through a community enhancement fund.

Acting mayor Emily Kattuk expressed Sanikiluaq’s excitement about the benefits of clean energy. She emphasized to reporters that taking care of the environment, collaborating, and sharing resources align with Inuit societal values.

The project agreement, once operational, will last for 25 years. The agreement includes measures to prevent electricity price inflation.

The Nunavut wind project has been in development since 2015. The progress was slow due in part to delays in implementing an independent power producers (IPP) program.

An IPP program allows energy producers that are not electric utilities to generate clean energy. These independent power producers then sell the clean energy back to the utility.

Now that an interim IPP policy is in effect, the Sanikiluaq project is able to move forward. The wind turbine will be installed next summer.

Renewable energy in the Canadian Arctic 

The federal government aims to have remote communities transition away from diesel by 2030 due to the high cost and climate impacts. Several programs have been introduced to achieve this goal.

One such initiative is the Northern REACHE Program, which provides $53.5 million over 10 years for renewable energy projects in Canada’s northern territories. The government has also introduced the $31-million Impact Canada Indigenous Off-Diesel Initiative.

Fortunately, progress is being made. According to the Penticton Herald, the number of renewable energy projects in isolated diesel-dependent communities nearly doubled between 2015 and 2020.

Beyond environmental benefits, transitioning to renewables offers additional advantages for communities like Sanikiluaq. Diesel has health repercussions, including increased asthma and respiratory diseases. It also comes with high costs and dependence on external energy sources.

The Sanikiluaq project serves as an inspiring model. It demonstrates that renewables can function effectively in sub-zero climates. The Sanikiluaq initiative will encourage other communities in Nunavut to pursue similar projects.

Image Source: CBC, https://shorturl.at/bEV19