John Ebell

Wuikinuxv First Nation is harnessing small-scale hydro to replace diesel fuel

The rain comes down in a dense mist as John Ebell shows off the construction site of the Nicknaqueet River Hydro project, high on a hillside above the Wannock River in Rivers Inlet, a fjord on the central coast of B.C.

It’s the perfect weather, he says, to illustrate why a small-scale hydroelectric project is so perfect for the area.

“There’s a lot of rainfall here, and there’s a lot of mountains,” Ebell, project manager with the Barkley Project Group, told The Narwhal (formerly DeSmog Canada). “So we have drop, and we have rainfall. That’s a perfect combination for hydropower.”

The river below is home to all five Pacific species of salmon, including some of the biggest chinook in the world. So traditional hydropower — with a dam, a reservoir and inherent risks to spawning grounds — was not acceptable to the community.

They decided on run-of-river, a less intrusive method that involves diverting some of the river’s flow to power a turbine, then returning it to the source.

“This project will displace 97 per cent of the community’s energy needs on an annual basis,” Ebell said.

“The Wuikinuxv Nation is setting a great example demonstrating renewable energy. They’re showing that it’s clean and it’s feasible and it’s possible to displace diesel with renewable energy.”

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Jimmy Thomson is a Yellowknife-based freelance journalist. He has worked as a CBC videojournalist and has bylines in the Globe…

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