McKay Métis hopes for spring 2021 groundbreaking on community solar farm

The Fort McKay Métis Group is planning to break ground on a solar farm as early as next year, making it the second project of its kind in the Wood Buffalo region.

Ron Quintal, chair of the group and president of the Fort McKay Métis Nation, said the groundbreaking ceremony is expected to be held sometime in spring 2021. At the same time, the company is looking at larger solar projects closer to Edmonton that could be finalized within the next two years.

Details such as costs and size of the solar farms are being finalized. The projects do not represent a switch away from the group’s work in the oilsands, but a response to growing demands for renewable energy sources.

“You can’t have success in green energy by just shutting out the rest of the energy sector,” said Quintal in a Monday interview. “For our community to be able to build these green projects, we’re going to have to use monies raised from the energy industry.”

The McKay Métis Group is also negotiating other equity projects, such as stakes in the proposed Alaska to Alberta railway and the Trans Mountain expansion.

Last week, the company appointed Crystal Young as its new CEO. Part of her role will be directing these new green energy projects. For Young, Indigenous-led energy companies should be the ones leading the way in renewable energy development.

“Indigenous-led companies understand the importance of giving back to communities,” she said in an interview. “We all have the same vision.”

Locally, a new solar farm in Fort Chipewyan is the most recent example of an Indigenous-led energy company pursuing green energy projects.

The project, completed by Three Nations Energy, will provide 25 per cent of Fort Chipewyan’s energy annually. The solar farm is designed to cut greenhouse gas emission by 2,170 tonnes and save up to 800,000 litres of diesel fuel annually.

Suncor, Canada’s second largest oilsands producer, has also tapped into the renewable energy sector by investing in four wind power farms across Canada.

For Quintal, renewable energy and oil are energy sources that are complimentary, rather than adversarial. He also hopes the energy needs of oilsands projects will be met with future green energy sources. Quintal says this will bring operational cost savings that could be invested elsewhere.

“I think that’s a win-win for everybody,” he said.

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