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Eden Valley Reserve celebrates new era of solar power

A First Nation west of Longview, Alta., is celebrating the completion of the first solar power project in its history.

Chief Darcy Dixon of the Bearspaw Nation and Eden Valley. He hints this project could be the first of many. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

A First Nation west of Longview, Alta., is celebrating the completion of the first solar power project in its history.

The new solar system on the Eden Valley Reserve received a special ceremonial blessing Tuesday, along with a community celebration and BBQ.

The 69.3-kilowatt project, made up of two long strips of solar panels, will provide more than half of the energy needed to power the reserve’s arena.

“This will offset as much of the consumption on an annual basis as possible,” said Greg Sauer with SkyFire Energy, the company that built the project.

A bank of solar panels on the Eden Valley Reserve west of Longview, Alta. The Eden Valley project cost $208,000 to build and used local labour from the community. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

SkyFire trained and employed several local workers from the reserve to help with construction of the panels and a surrounding security fence.

“The entire system from start to completion really did involve the community. It’s visibly to the community and something they can really rally behind,” said Sauer.

Eden Valley sits in picturesque ranching country but belongs to the Bearspaw First Nation, which is part of the Stoney Nakoda Nation situated 137 kilometres north along a section of the Trans-Canada Highway.

People can look at this and say to future generations ‘this is what we’ve done for you.’​– Greg Sauer, SkyFire Energy

SkyFire Energy had to work closely with the community, especially elders, to get them onside with the idea of a solar project on their land.

“There’s a synergy here with the surroundings, the mountains and the trees and this energy coming from the sun. People can look at this and say to future generations ‘this is what we’ve done for you,'” said Sauer.

The solar project cost $208,000 to build, with the bulk of the money coming from the outgoing NDP provincial government, along with money from the North Growth Foundation, Clean Energy Canada, Solar Now and TC Energy.

Sauer says the project is one of many involving Alberta First Nations. Skyfire Energy is currently building a one megawatt project near Wetaskawin, Alta. 

Greg Sauer is vice-president of sales with SkyFire Energy. He says more and more First Nations are exploring solar power for a range of needs on reserves across Canada. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

“I think this is a small step towards educating our people and our people educating us as leaders on how we can do things differently and to help the environment,” said Chief Darcy Dixon of the Bearspaw First Nation, including Eden Valley.

“It’s going to help us save some funds that we can redirect to other areas in the community.”

Dixon says the First Nation is already talking about how solar could be used on future projects. 

“If we feel and if the community members feel it’s something that will be benefit them then there’s no telling what the future will hold,” he said.

About the Author

Dan McGarvey is a mobile journalist covering all kinds of stories from northeast Calgary for web, radio, TV and social media, using only an iPhone and mobile tech. You can email story ideas and tips to Dan at: dan.mcgarvey@cbc.ca or tweet him @DanMcGarvey

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