Louis Bull First Nation in Alberta goes solar

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WATCH ABOVE: The Louis Bull Tribe - one of the four first nations in Maskwacis - has unveiled its new solar initiative. Four community buildings are now equipped with 400 solar panels. Emily Mertz has the details. – Sep 30, 2016

The Louis Bull Tribe – one of four First Nations in Maskwacis, Alta. – unveiled its new solar initiative Friday.

Over the summer, solar panels were installed on four community buildings and there are plans for more installations down the road. Solar panels are now on the roofs of the Louis Bull Health Services building, Public Works/fire hall, the Head Start program and Adult Training Centre.

“Any person, even a single household person, has that ability to become … a producer of energy instead of being somebody that just consumes it,” Louis Bull Councillor Desmond Bull said.

The community celebrated the transition to solar power with a ribbon cutting ceremony Sept. 30. Politicians and stakeholders joined the Louis Bull Council and residents for the event.

“It doesn’t only have to be renewable or alternate energy projects,” Bull said. “We can look at conservation, reclamation, we can look at environmental stewardship to recycling programs. We can even look at the simple thing of creating biomass. These are all opportunities we need to explore.”

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The Louis Bull First Nation Solar Initiative started in the fall of 2013, Bull explained in a Greenpeace Canada blog post.

“Something that was just a cost-saving project really turned into something that drove me as a passion to get involved,” he wrote.

“Alternative energy might be that key component that First Nations people can utilize to gain that harmonious relationship that our ancestors had (with nature) prior back.”

In the spring of 2015, the community applied for a grant through the First Nation Infrastructure Development Fund and was approved that summer.

Band members were interviewed to become installers and trainees to form their own solar company for the project.

Phase 1 began in the spring of 2016 and, by the end of the project, 400 solar panels were installed.

“If you talk to anyone and you ask them: ‘Would you prefer to have your energy through a coal burning system, or being harnessed through light and water?’ The most obvious answer is something that’s most easily, readily available and that’s solar energy and the sun that shines on us every day,” Bull explained.

On Friday, he said he hoped that down the road the initiative will help off-set utility costs for low-income members of the community, elders or special needs members.

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“What we wanted to do was possibly diversify how we’re actually using energy in our tribe and energy efficiency,” Bull said. “We see these types of systems as beneficial to other programs where we can offset utilities and O and M [operations and management] costs and put them into much needed programs that are sorely needed in First Nations communities.”

*EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published on Sept. 28 and updated Sept. 30 after the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

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