Tapping into river power

Sagkeeng pursues alternative source

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THE language used in the treaties signed between First Nations and the Canadian government includes the line — “as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the rivers flow” — to indicate they are to last forever.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/05/2016 (2318 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

THE language used in the treaties signed between First Nations and the Canadian government includes the line — “as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the rivers flow” — to indicate they are to last forever.

Jeff Courchene, the economic development officer for Sagkeeng First Nation, has an alternative-energy take on that phrase — solar panels for the sun shining, greenhouses for the grass growing and hydrokinetic turbines in the flowing river.

This fall, New Energy Corp. Inc. of Calgary will install the company’s new 25-kilowatt EnviroGen hydrokinetic power-generation system, as part of a federally funded program to install near-commercial technology in facilities funded by the federal government.

NEW ENERGY CORP. INC. The hydrokinetic turbine doesn’t require a dam. It’s ideal for isolated communities that rely on diesel generators.

Courchene said Sagkeeng wants to generate more of its own power. It’s getting the hydrokinetic turbine piece and it also has applied for funding to build a 50-kilowatt solar-panel farm.

“This is brand-new technology,” Courchene said of the innovative portable electricity generator. “And we are the first ones to have it.”

The low-power hydrokinetic turbine generator will get set up in the Winnipeg River near the community. The equipment, which does not require any dams to be built or concrete poured, is anchored in the river.

Clayton Bear, the CEO of New Energy, said the project is about $400,000, including the equipment, site preparation and training.

“We know the First Nation communities… want to be self-sufficient,” Bear said. “This is the type of thing that can help them in some small way.”

Once it’s installed, it requires no fuel and runs 24 hours per day, which means there’s no need for a large battery bank.

Sagkeeng is connected to the power grid, but Bear said this type of technology could be especially attractive to isolated communities that depend on shipped-in diesel to operate generators.

Courchene said part of the impetus was the realization his father’s Hydro bill was taking a big chunk of his pension.

Although the EnviroGen system will have a minimal effect on that — it is estimated to generate about $95 per day worth of electricity — it is one step toward more community control.

Dale Friesen, Manitoba Hydro’s industrial and commercial solutions manager, said Hydro has a number of customer-owned generation projects.

“We are 100 per cent supportive of communities taking on those kinds of projects,” Friesen said.

He said Hydro is working with a number of communities on a variety of projects that can improve energy efficiency. They are looking at alternative forms of generation that are renewable and that “allow communities to contribute environmentally and sustainably in a positive way.”

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Martin Cash

Martin Cash
Reporter

Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.

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