Inuvik’s greenhouse continues to push the boundaries of what is possible in the Arctic.
Its enclosed year-round hydroponics unit is already producing leafy greens on a weekly basis, but now the society has secured solar panels to power the unit during the brighter parts of the year.
“We had planned to do that this summer, but with changing locations it was delayed,” said Inuvik Greenhouse Society chairperson Peter Clarkson. “It was always the plan to offset the electricity costs that are happening with the hydroponics facility, because that’s by far the largest cost in running it.
“We will have had one year without the solar panels, and then we’ll go a full year with the solar panels.”
He said the society was able to get the panels as part of its funding for the project, which has a two-year window to determine if the trailer can work economically.
With the panels, the greenhouse society is hoping to be able to bank kilowatt hours and sell excess power back to Northwest Territories Power Corporation, which is uses as credit for the dark months from October to March.
Clarkson said the greenhouse was the last place to get approval for solar panels for ‘net metering’ before NTPC put a halt on how many buildings could connect solar panels to the grid.
Moving the hydroponics unit to solar won’t affect the operations of the unit at all, he added, noting the system is still connected to the power grid and has a solid workflow currently organized.
“It’ll feed into the hydroponics facility first, then if we need to pull off the grid we’ll pull off the grid,” said Clarkson. “In the summer months when we’re getting lots of solar it will hopefully feed back into the grid and we’ll get a credit on that.”
Sporting the artwork of greenhouse employee Adi Scott, the trailer-turned hydroponics unit now sits next to the greenhouse by Aurora College. Developed by ColdAcre Food Systems, the winter-friendly greenhouse grows leafy greens like pak choi, kale and swiss chard. The unit can produce between 500 and 1,000 pounds of food per month.
Thanks to the unit, life at the greenhouse has settled into a routine, with roughly 40 subscribers picking up Veggie Boxes every Thursday, in spite of the freezing temperatures. Greenhouse staff harvest the hydroponics unit for its leafy bounty once a week.
“The staff do a harvest every Thursday morning and all the stuff is bagged up, then people who have a subscription come between 5 and 6 p.m.,” he said. “Typically what happens is people come in and pick up what they would like.”
In addition, as the summer approaches volunteers can rent out personal or group plots to grow their own food, with gardeners growing everything from tomatoes to an apple tree.
For more information on greenhouse activities and how to get involved, visit inuvikgreenhouse.com or phone 867-678-0399.