Xeni Gwet’in Nenqay manager Michelle Myers is looking forward to having electricity in her home by the end of 2021.
Recently her remote community in the Nemiah Valley west of Williams Lake held a ground-breaking ceremony for a solar electrical project that will connect more homes in the community, including hers.
“There are currently 28 homes that are not connected to any reliable source of electricity, ” Myers told Black Press Media. “I grew up in Xeni Gwet’in and Williams Lake and both my parents’ and my home in Xeni do not have electricity.”
Homes like theirs have been running off individual generators that are purchased and maintained by homeowners.
“This project will connect those 28 homes to the rest of our small micro grid, located in our central community.”
Myers said her role in the project was to find and secure funding for the underground electrical distribution line.
Funding came from Fraser Basin Council through its renewable energy and remote communities program to the tune of $1.5 million and $250,000 from the New Relationship Trust through its B.C. Indigenous Clean Energy Initiative program.
Construction will take about six to seven months before it is completed.
Myers, 27, became the Nenqay manager in March 2020.
Even with added electricity, it will be limited to run things such as everyday lights, TVs, wifi and smaller appliances.
“We have hybrid electrical and propane fridges, and our hot water tanks are mainly propane still,” she said, noting propane is delivered to some homes while other residents fill tanks at the store. “We still have a long way to go to be 100 per cent renewable, but hopefully will be able to transition in the future to a cleaner source of energy.”
David Setah, Xeni Gwet’in Enterprises manager, has been involved with the project since it began.
He recalls in the ‘90s there was an old building in the community that housed a generator for the administration office, mainly, but that was the only source of electricity.
From there things expanded as time went along.
Presently 40 homes have electricity, and it is used more in the winter, Setah said.
“We have our solar system, which is 225 kilowatts and just got put in last year. It also charges 1,000 kilowatt of batteries for storage.”
Arctic Arrow Powerline Group is the project contractor and will oversee community members are doing all the civil work.
“We digging the trenches and laying down the conduits and underground powerline,” Setah said. “We have about 26 kilometres. It starts at the main office on IR#3 and we are going west toward Chilko Lake.”
In addition to the 28 homes that will be hooked up, there will be six new homes built in the area.
“We have a contractor that works with us — Quality Excavating, Marko Zurak — that works with us closely so they are also helping us with doing the underground work on the power line.”
Through a partnership with Quality Excavating, Setah said the community is building more capacity and gaining skills.
Setah has a 6,500 Honda generator at his house and also looks forward to being tapped into the new electrical line.
It has only been since 2006, that any homes had electricity at Xeni Gwet’in.
Water and sewer has been on the main reserve with a community sewer, but anywhere east or west of that area, houses have individual septic tanks or drain fields.
Setah was elected on council but after two and a half years left to go back into management.
“I saw we were lacking in capacity so I resigned as a councillor.”