ACFN – Concord Solar Partnership Launches Three Farms
Largest First Nations Ownership Stake in Solar in Canada
On a cold, blustery day in November, leadership from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation travelled to southern Alberta to the Coaldale Solar Farm to launch one of the most significant First Nations solar projects in Canada.
November 9, 2022 Ribbon Cutting – Left to Right: Councillor Teri Villebrun (ACFN), Jason Schulz (Executive Director, ACFN), Councillor Flossie Cyprean (ACFN), Chief Allan Adam (ACFN), Cliff McCracken (President, Concord Green Energy), Daryl Day Chief (Blood Tribe), Levi Little Moustache (Blood Tribe), Calvin Chan (Concord), Cleris Lai (Concord)
ACFN, through its company ACFN Green Energy LP, has a 50 per cent ownership stake with Concord Green Energy in three large merchant solar farms in Monarch, Vulcan and Coaldale, Alberta.
Together the three solar farms consist of more than 236,000 solar modules and will produce enough electricity to power 10,000 homes in Alberta.
ACFN first dipped its toes into the renewable energy industry when it joined forces with the Mikisew Cree and the Fort Chipewyan Métis to form Three Nations Energy and build the 2.3 megawatt solar project in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta. It provides 25 per cent of the electricity to Fort Chipewyan and reduces the amount of diesel trucked to the community used to generate electricity.
Solar energy is now the cheapest way to produce electricity and it’s actually helping reduce the price of electricity.
These three projects in southern Alberta represent the largest First Nations ownership stake in a solar energy in Canada and are 40 times larger than the 3NE solar farm project in Fort Chipewyan.
Chief Allan Adam, ACFN
After two years of work on the project, ACFN leadership were thrilled to look across the almost 80,000 solar panels at the Coaldale solar farm where the ceremony was held.
Chief Adam told the dignitaries that gathered for the launch that once the ACFN Council got behind the project “there was no looking back.”
“We look at climate change as a big effect that’s going to impact a lot of people and not only the First Nations,” says Chief Adam.
“We want to diversify from the oil sands to renewable energies,” says Chief Adam adding that it’s the way of the future.
ACFN Chief Allan Adam and Councillors Flossie Cyprean and Teri Villebrun were there with their partners from Concord Green Energy (based in Vancouver), members of the Blood Tribe, on whose territory the solar farms were built, and other dignitaries to officially open the solar farms.
Blood Tribe Elder Chester Day Chief smudged tobacco and offered prayers in ceremony along with drumming.
Ralph Makokis (Senior Associate, Greenplanet Energy Analytics) and Elder Chester Day Chief (Blood Tribe) emphasized the importance of Northern Dene investing in business opportunities in Treaty 7 Blackfoot Territory.
Members of the Blood Tribe were employed in the construction of the solar projects, providing 50 per cent of the labour. Levi Little Moustache said his people appreciated the work and looked forward to future work maintaining the solar farms and new training programs for their people. Several Indigenous subcontractors also contributed to the success of the project.
“The future looks bright for us,” says Chief Adam. “We continue to build our nation based on what we see out there for the betterment of future generations to come. And there is no better way to do it than having a solar farm because: The sun is there. The sun is hot, it’s bright and it’s beautiful and it gives us life.”
The projects represent the largest investments for ACFN to date.
With the 2023 completion of battery storage now under construction, the three facilities will capture about 26 GWh of electricity annually increasing the renewable energy benefits of the project. Additional information about the project’s storage capabilities will be announced this spring.
ACFN, including Councillor Tim Flett and Executive Director Jason Schulz, visited Vancouver in January to discuss plans for expanding the ACFN – Concord Solar Partnership.
“Traditionally, the sun gives us the food on your table, the vegetables, the fruits and everything”, Chief Adam says. “And now the sun is producing clean electricity for ACFN and the Alberta electricity grid and ACFN owns half of the project which will provide economic benefits for the nation for at least 25 years.”
ACFN and its solar projects were featured in this Green Energy Futures video story and on the CKUA Radio Network across Alberta.