Power to the People: How solar panels replaced diesel in Gull Bay First Nation

Digital WritersThe Weather Network
Digital Writers

The solar energy project offsets approximately 120,000 litres of diesel fuel each year in Gull Bay First Nation, Ontario.

Gull Bay First Nation is a remote Indigenous community located 200 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, Ont.

Although this community is home to an expansive lake that the province uses to generate hydropower, the Ontario Power Authority informed Gull Bay First Nation that they are one of four communities that will not be hooked up to the provincial grid in the near future.

Lacking access to hydropower, Gull Bay First Nation would need to continue to rely on diesel, which has powered the community since 1960, unless energy independence became possible.

EP13 GULL BAY SEGMENTS.00 02 07 21.Still015 (power to the People)

The solar project became the first fully-integrated remote renewable energy storage micro grid in Canada. (Power to the People)

Melina Laboucan-Massimo, one of Canada’s leading climate change activists and the host of Power to the People, visited Gull Bay First Nation in northern Ontario to explore how this community is leveraging the power of a solar micro grid to secure that independence.

“Once we do this, we would like to share it with other remote communities that are dealing with diesel challenges. That's part of our value as Anishinaabeg people, as Gull Bay First Nation people, when someone is struggling to help you help them,” said AJ Esquega, coordinator of Mashkawiziiwin Energy Projects.

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Laboucan-Massimo and Esquega discussing solar energy. (Power to the People)

Laboucan-Massimo and Esquega discussing solar energy. (Power to the People)

Esquega coordinated the Giizis Energy Solar Storage Micro Grid Project with Ontario Power Generation, and in doing so created Canada’s first fully-integrated remote renewable energy-storage micro grid. The solar project features over 1,000 panels and offsets 25 per cent of the community’s diesel use, approximately 120,000 litres, annually.

Children learning about renewable energy in Gull Bay First Nation. (Power to the People)

Children learning about renewable energy in Gull Bay First Nation. (Power to the People)

Watch the video, above, to learn more about how the relationship between Gull Bay First Nation and Ontario Power Generation changed over time and what successfully transitioning away from diesel could look like in a remote Indigenous community.

You can learn more about The Weather Network’s presentation of Power to the People, here.

Thumbnail image: The solar panel micro grid project being constructed in Gull Bay First Nation. (Power to the People)