Major First Nation solar farm constructed in British Columbia
September 25, 2023
By Canadian Consulting Engineer
The project involved building a solar array and microgrid controller along the Masset airport runway in Haida Gwaii.
A major First Nation solar project in Haida Gwaii, an archipelago off the coast of British Columbia, has been completed.
The project involved building a solar array and microgrid controller along the Masset airport runway, and was undertaken by Burnaby, B.C.-based engineering firm Hedgehog Technologies collaborating with the Haida Nation. The 2-MW solar array is said to be the largest current solar installation in B.C., and is expandable to 4 MW. The array will reduce diesel use by up to 600,000 litres per year, and is fully owned and operated by the Haida Nation.
One of the primary concerns of implementing a solar array at an active airport is the potential for glare that can affect incoming landing planes, officials with Hedgehog said. To address this issue, the firm conducted an extensive reflectivity study to analyze the reflective surface of different panel orientations and materials. They were able to determine the optimal positioning of the solar panels to minimize glare and ensure the safety of aircraft operations.
The location is along the Masset airport runway because it was already cleared out, which means that no old-growth trees had to be cut down – an important factor in preserving the ancestral lands of the Haida Nation. “The project was strategically designed and built along the airport, sparing the need to clear 11 acres of precious old-growth forest,” Hedgehog officials said. “By preserving the natural habitat and seamlessly integrating renewable energy infrastructure, this project represents a harmonious fusion of technology and ecological consciousness.”
Also, by displacing over 600,000 liters of diesel fuel, this project has made what Hedgehog officials call “a substantial reduction” in greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, and reliance on non-renewable energy sources.
And the solar array will produce near net power, Hedgehog officials added, which is when community energy demand equals the amount of solar being generated.