This week we checked in with solar superhero Klaus Dohring, whose company Green Sun Rising has installed 48 solar systems across the North in eight years — saving more than 330,000 litres of diesel fuel from power generation.

Of course, saved fuel is also saved money — both for the community in volume needed to be brought in by barge and for individuals relying on diesel to also heat their homes and facilitate hunting expeditions.

Solar power is about as win-win a situation as you can possibly hope for. You install the panels in your micro-grid, like your roof. Done. Free power.

It’s such a slam dunk, it’s surprising the majority of electricity being generated by Dohring’s systems is in remote Nunavut, far away from shipping lanes or roads.

While our eastern neighbours are green-lighting projects in excess of 100 kW for communities, saving their ratepayers potentially hundreds if not thousands of dollars in bills per year, in 2022 the biggest project that the Northwest Territories Power Corporation (NTPC) allowed was 45 kW in Ulukhaktok — a project to put solar panels on the water treatment plant and maintenance garage was “dinky little,” as Dohring put it.

Utility companies seem reluctant to bring in solar. While many in the industry claim the inclusion of solar could result in surges of energy potentially overwhelming the grid, that seems like a problem easily offset by not burning other fuels for electricity at the time. What really seems to be at the core of stubbornness of our mostly privately owned, “public” utilities is the fact they can’t make any money with solar and it significantly reduces the current monopoly they have on power generation.

A terrible day for capitalism and Wall Street perhaps, but that’s really not any Northerner’s problem. Our problem is we’re paying through the nose to ship diesel and liquefied natural gas up here for electricity in a region where we have 24 hours of sunlight and enough lakes and mountains we could easily build a few hydroelectric dams with the consultation of traditional knowledge. Dam-friendly Yukon territory enjoys the lowest electricity costs in the North — easily one third of what we pay here on the other side of the Dempster.

Two projects underway, the TUK M-18 well and Inuvik Wind Project, could provide potential relief from high bills by taking advantage of the enormous energy potential of the region, but they’re merely scratching the surface. Considering the natural gas deposits, high winds, annual flooding and endless days of sun for months on end there’s no reason we should have to import a drop of fuel up the highway. Between the fossil fuel deposits covering the dark winter months and the renewable resources which could make our summers nearly greenhouse gas free, we are surrounded by abundance. If only we could use it.

Individual and collective resources are being tied up in power costs we really shouldn’t be paying for with what’s currently available. Aggressively bringing green energy to the Beaufort Delta would save us thousands of dollars annually. That’s money that could go to youth programs, homeless support, addictions treatment, replacing our nearly-unlivable buildings, electrifying vehicles and boats, or numerous other projects we currently can’t afford because of our power costs.

If the GNWT really wants to give ratepayers a holiday gift this season, it should direct NTPC to remove its restrictions on solar in NWT communities.

Eric Bowling

Your source for all things happening in the Beaufort Delta. Eric jumped at the chance to write for the Inuvik Drum after cutting his teeth in Alberta. He enjoys long walks, loud music and strong coffee....

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