Empowering Sustainability for KHFN First Nations

In an era where renewable energy is becoming increasingly crucial, the KWIKWASUT’INUXW HAXWA’MIS FIRST NATION (KHFN) Solar Project stands as a shining example of sustainable innovation. Funded by Coast Funds and NRCAN, this marks a significant step toward reducing diesel consumption and fostering a cleaner environment for the KHFN community. With its impressive scope, dedicated team, and a combination of distributed solar generation with advanced battery energy storage system (BESS), the project paves the way for a brighter, greener future.

Goals and Design Scope:

The project commenced with KHFN’s ambitious goal of reducing operating costs, greenhouse gas emissions and creating resiliency for this remote community.  KHFN’s Gilford Island site operates its own diesel microgrid which provides power to 26 homes and 12 community buildings through a 14kv overhead distribution system.  The concept was to add solar PV and energy storage systems to the existing microgrid to reduce their dependance on the diesel generation and hit their goals.  Charge Solar, with their engineering expertise was brought on to support KHFN and help them complete a feasibility study.  One of the key factors in developing this project was listening to the residents in the village and incorporating their suggestions into the feasibility study.  The results showed that installing a 250kW, 1.1 MWh BESS and a 221kW Solar PV array had the potential to offset over 70,000 liters of diesel consumption annually.

Timeline and Milestones:

The journey towards achieving sustainable energy independence for KHFN began with an initial site visit in September 2020. Following the thorough assessment, Charge Solar’s engineering team was engaged through Q1 of 2021 to design the BESS and Solar PV arrays (114kW of Solar PV is centrally located near the BESS and Generators, with the remaining 107kW distributed on the homes and building throughout the village). This design allowed KHFN to incrementally install the PV systems, gaining the benefits instantly as each stage was completed. The endeavor has made significant progress since then, with the project reaching substantial completion as of May 2023. The final stage is set to conclude by the end of 2023, signifying a remarkable achievement for the community.

Community Collaboration, Training and Potential:

The successful execution of the project owes much to the collaboration between locals like Howard McCoy and Bruce Landsdowne, Charge Solar and the KHFN community. Band members called upon Charge Solar for guidance during the installation process, receiving comprehensive training on various aspects of solar technology, including fall arrest procedures, hands-on installation training, and system design fundamentals. This community involvement not only strengthens the sense of ownership but also empowers the band members to maintain their new microgrid system. The KHFN Solar Project has not only delivered immediate benefits but also laid the foundation for future growth and development. By significantly reducing pollution and providing a peaceful environment, the community can enjoy a higher quality of life while looking for opportunities that were once prohibited by energy limits.  The community is exploring an ice plant to support local fishermen and the possibility of eco-tourism.

Challenges and Results:

To achieve the project’s objectives, Charge Solar meticulously selected high-quality equipment, and components. Developing a microgrid solution for remote communities must take careful consideration for the maintenance of the equipment selected.  This meant that traditional large centrally located PV and storage was not an option and forced a distributed architecture using smaller components.  Small PV systems consisting of QCELL modules, Fast-Rack’s ULTRA racking and Fronius inverters were deployed throughout the rooftops.  The BESS was two mirrored systems built with modular KORE battery components.  The control system from ComAp was used to blend all these components together and control the microgrid. This state-of-the-art system not only offsets diesel consumption but also integrates seamlessly with the electrical grid. Its ability to communicate with the grid enables efficient energy management and contributes to the stability and reliability of the entire system.

The KHFN Solar Project on Gilford Island exemplifies their commitment toward sustainable energy and environmental stewardship. By embracing solar and storage, the KHFN community not only secures a cleaner, greener future but also paves the way for sustainable economic growth and a thriving eco-tourism industry.  Charge Solar is proud to be a partner with such a progressive community.

Charge Solar has experienced a steady rise in its engagement with solar and storage initiatives for First Nations communities. With the recent unveiling of the Clean Electricity Federal Tax Credit, which offers a 15% tax credit on investments in solar for indigenous communities, and an impressive $140M in government funding allocated specifically for indigenous projects in British Columbia, we are expecting significant expansion within this sector in 2024.

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