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Microgrid powers Canadian First Nation community

Steve Rogerson
August 21, 2019



The Kiashke Zaaging Anishinaabek (KZA) First Nation community in Canada and Ontario Power Generation (OPG) have co-developed a community microgrid that uses solar, battery storage and automated control technology to help reduce diesel use.
 
Located on the western shore of Lake Nipigon, KZA has an on-reserve population of about 300 people who rely on diesel generators to provide all their electricity. It is one of four remote First Nation communities in Ontario that cannot be connected economically to the provincial grid.
 
This indigenous-led microgrid project uses ground-mounted solar panels, lithium-ion batteries and a control system to help the community offset its diesel usage. A microgrid controller integrates the clean, renewable energy from over 1000 solar panels and more than 80 battery modules with the existing community distribution system.
 
The controller balances generation and energy storage to reduce diesel use by as much as 30 per cent. Alltrade was chosen as the general contractor for this project, which involved integration with the existing distributor, Hydro One, and battery and controller supplier ABB.
 
"Hydro One is proud to be a part of this indigenous-led initiative, which is an innovative and first-of-its-kind project in Canada," said Kraemer Coulter, managing director of Hydro One Remote Communities. "This project will provide clean and renewable power to the community of Kiashke Zaaging Anishinaabek for generations to come."
 
With the project now online, KZA's development corporation, Ma'iingan Development, will be responsible for the operations and maintenance to deliver clean energy to their own community. This is a significant step towards KZA's long-term vision for energy sustainability.
 
"In the last few weeks as we went into full operations we have already reduced over 12,000 litres of diesel with clean, renewable solar power," said KZA chief Wilfred King. “I am so proud that the Giizis Energy solar storage microgrid will be 100% owned by our community. The impact is significant and substantive, including: community-centred economic development and jobs; community infrastructure improvement; a healthier community; diesel and GHG reduction; and a stronger Kiashke Zaaging Anishinaabek community."
 
The microgrid product is OPG's fifth development project with an indigenous community and first distribution-scale solar installation.
 
"This innovative project will help reduce the burning of diesel fuel and will integrate renewable solar generation and energy storage into the community's existing power system," said Paul Giardetti, OPG vice-president. "By working together with KZA, OPG has developed a microgrid that is the first step towards long-term energy supply that is both reliable and environmentally sustainable."
 
Greg Rickford, minister of energy, northern development and mines, added: "Ontario is proud to support KZA's micro grid, an innovative project that will provide the community with a reliable and cost-efficient energy supply. This investment in the energy system will help to support economic growth in the community, signalling that this region, like the rest of the province, is open for business and open for job creation."