Jiigawaay Naay Unguu, BC’s largest community-owned solar energy system launches at the Haida Heritage Centre at Ḵay Llnagaay

Solar panels now cover the longhouse roofs of the Haida Heritage Centre at Ḵay Llnagaay. Photo by VoVo Productions.
Solar panels now cover the longhouse roofs of the Haida Heritage Centre at Ḵay Llnagaay. Photo by VoVo Productions.

Installation is now complete on 385 photovoltaic (PV) solar panels at the Haida Heritage Centre at Ḵay Llnagaay. Elders from the community’s Skidegate Haida Immersion Program (SHIP) named the project Jiigawaay Naay Unguu which means “The Sun on Top of the House” in the X̱aayda Kil dialect. Much of Skidegate’s energy is generated from diesel generators and as of August 19th, the state-of-the-art solar system began generating up to 100 kilowatts of renewable electricity. The electricity that this project creates will go directly into meeting the energy needs of the Haida Heritage Centre and any excess energy will flow back into the local electrical grid through the BC Hydro Net Metering Program.

“As we celebrate the Haida Heritage Centre’s ninth year, we feel it is important to look to the future of our community and our children,” said Billy Yovanovich, Chief Skidegate Band Councillor. “This new solar project will leave a cleaner footprint on Haida Gwaii for years to come and serve as a reminder that there are local solutions we can act on today to move toward a clean energy future.”

Solar panels now cover the longhouse roofs of the Haida Heritage Centre at Ḵay Llnagaay. Photo by VoVo Productions.
Solar panels now cover the longhouse roofs of the Haida Heritage Centre at Ḵay Llnagaay. Photo by VoVo Productions.

This new solar project will leave a cleaner footprint on Haida Gwaii for years to come and serve as a reminder that there are local solutions we can act on today to move toward a clean energy future.

The solar art component of the project was designed by Arthur Pearson to resemble a collapsed longhouse. Photo by Josephina Baik.
The solar art component of the project was designed by Arthur Pearson to resemble a collapsed longhouse. Photo by Josephina Baik.

Prior to the establishment of this solar project the Skidegate Band Council has been a leader in energy efficiency and renewable energy development. In 2015 the Skidegate Band Council began installing heat pumps in homes in the community to reduce emissions and costs from diesel oil and electric heaters/furnaces. As a result all 350 homes have been outfitted with these systems. Further to this, the Skidegate Band Council procured funds to install heat pumps into all band buildings.

There have also been two previous PV solar projects in Skidegate.  Sk’aadgaa Naay Elementary school was outfitted with 24 solar panels and a 50 kW solar power system has been installed on the George Brown Community Centre. As well, several solar hot water systems are in place throughout the community.

However, the solar project at the Haida Heritage Centre at Ḵay Llnagaay is by far the most extensive — and the largest community-owned installation in B.C., according to project manager and community energy developer David Isaac of W Dusk Energy Group.

At 50,000 square feet, the heritage centre consumes a lot of electricity. In fact, Yovanovich says one of the council’s biggest concerns is the centre’s hydro bill, which costs somewhere around $100,000 a year. “So anything we can do to offset that is part of the driving force,” he said.

“We’ve got lots of momentum right now and we want to continue on with that,” he said. “We’re open to partnerships with anybody to help us pull off the next project.”

Online Resources: