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Going alternative in Arviat

While bad weather and poor scheduling combined to make this year's Kivalliq mayor meetings a non-event, Arviat Mayor Bob Leonard is excited about the direction his community is taking.

Mayor Bob Leonard is excited and optimistic about the potential of having solar and wind generation in Arviat after announcing the hamlet's partnership with clean-energy developer, NRStor Remote Communities, this past month. Darrell Greer/NNSL photo

Leonard said there was no participation at the meetings by any elected Government of Nunavut (GN) person due to the meetings being scheduled at the same time as the legislative assembly's final sitting before the territorial election.

He said bad weather prevented a bunch of other people who planned to attend from making it into Rankin Inlet, as well.

“We did spend some time with Kivalliq Inuit Association president David Ningeongan and he talked a bit about his plan to try and get a Kivalliq Round Table up and running, now that it looks like it's time for the Hudson Bay Round Table to take a rest again for a couple of years,” said Leonard.

“That was it as far as any real regional issue we discussed. Not having any GN ministers there at all sort of deflated the whole thing.

“We could have picked up, I suppose and had more discussions amongst ourselves, but it just didn't happen.”

What did happen, however, was Arviat announcing it had partnered with clean-energy developer NRStor Remote Communities to develop a comprehensive clean-energy solution to significantly reduce the amount of diesel fuel required to power the community.

The hamlet and company are now jointly working to: assess the community’s renewable energy resources, including the erection of a meteorological tower to measure the wind resource; assess options to reduce the community’s dependence on fuel for heating; design a comprehensive clean-energy system utilizing solar, wind and energy storage technologies; and deploy a community clean-energy project using a phased approach.

Leonard, who has been Arviat's mayor for the past nine years and is just finishing the first year of a three-year term, said the clean-energy project will be the first major renewable energy project in Canada’s North.

He said in addition to reducing environmental impacts, the project will allow Arviat to own its own energy system and provide a long-term revenue stream to the community.

“Actually, it's taken me a bit of a while to warm up to it, because I was kind of heavily invested into bringing hydro power out of Manitoba up here, but as we've worked through this thing -- and dealing with the group that approached us on this -- I've completely turned around and I'm really excited about it,” he said.

“It has a better chance than most things because it's private sector and these people are putting their own money into this thing.

“They're doing that because they believe it can be successful, and that's why it will be. I fully believe in it now, too, and strongly so.”

Leonard said he believes there's going to be “dozens, or more,” of these projects on the go in Canada over the next 10 years.

“What we know about generating electricity right now, is in 10 years it will look like primitive times,” he said.

“But you have to start somewhere and we have a group that's willing to invest their money in today's technology, so let's get started and we can develop from there.”

Leonard said he expects to see construction begin this coming year.

He said Arviat's partner is a big player and once its board commits it's not going to waste time getting started.

“It's not going to be perfect and there will be issues, but I'm excited and optimistic,” he said.

“It's time to get going on this kind of stuff, and it will also be good for the community to generate income that we don't just wait on from the GN or the Government of Canada.”