WIKWEMIKONG – Installation of seven new rooftop solar panel projects will result in long-term energy –cost savings for the First Nation, as well as provide 12 weeks of paid training for five band members.
“These rooftop installations are providing hands-on work experience for those who had gained installation training over a year ago through a local Construction Training Program,” says Melissa Cooper, Energy Planner for Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve, who estimates that each of the rooftop systems should provide up to $9,000 worth of annual power generation. The revenue will be re-invested into other community projects as determined by Wikwemikong Band Council.
Wikwemikong Enaadmaagehjik , the First Nation’s Development Commission secured training funds from Wii-ni n’guch-tood Local Delivery Mechanism.
“Training will include installation, maintenance and certification,” says MaryLynn Odjig, the development commission’s General Manager. “ Once certified, these individuals can pursue and secure further employment within the renewable energy sector.”
These projects have been in the works since late 2012. Solex Manitoulin won the competitive bid to install all seven projects and provide racking and solar panel installation training to Wikwemikong’s crew.
In addition to three housing complexes (30-Plex, 8-Plex and a 4-Plex), rooftop solar systems are being installed on Wasse-Aabin High School, the community Health Centre, Nursing Home and the Rainbow Ridge Golf Course Club House. Each system is comprised of 40 panels and aluminum racking systems. In some cases rooftop surfaces (shingles) had to be repaired and/or replaced in order for the racking to be properly installed by the work crew.
“It’s been good working experience for me,” said Frankie Wakegijig, one of the five trainees hired June 24th to complete the projects under the supervision of the Energy Planner. “I hope these projects will not only bring more job opportunities to our community, but also give back to the planet.”
The Energy Planner intends to submit several more applications to the Ontario Power Authority’s microFIT Program .
“The OPA has opened many economic opportunities for First Nations, municipalities and companies alike to work together on make work projects such as these throughout Ontario,” added Cooper, who has recently been selected by the OPA to be a participant in their newly formed Aboriginal Energy Working Group. The first meeting was scheduled for late July, and the agenda will include discussion s about transmission and capacity for the First Nations of Manitoulin Island.
“Wikwemikong has been instrumental in advocating for viable renewable energy opportunities since before the Green Energy Act was legislated and we are now beginning to see the results of our efforts,” said Chief Duke Peltier.
Wikwemikong has also submitted applications under the OPA’s Solar Set Aside Program. The Development Commission and partner, Ontario Solar Provider, have applied to the OPA to deliver 500kW of of energy in southern Ontario.