The Pesâkâstêw solar project celebrated its official opening on July 19 with a ceremony in Weyburn, Sask. This is Saskatchewan’s second utility-scale solar project, and the first utility-scale, Indigenous-owned generating facility to be added to the SaskPower grid.
The grand opening of the 10 megawatt (MW) solar project was a culmination of years of effort and collaboration between George Gordon First Nation at Punnichy and the Star Blanket Cree Nation at Fort Qu’Appelle. Natural Forces, an independent power producer based out of Halifax rounded out the Pesâkâstêw Solar Limited Partnership – an arrangement that allowed the two Saskatchewan-based First Nations to benefit from the project while mitigating financial risk. The First Nations Power Authority’s original opportunity assessment brought this project to life.
While (ironically) the weather didn’t cooperate with the grand opening and for the safety of participants following a significant summer storm, the ceremony took place inside the Weyburn Credit Union Spark Centre, where the sun streamed through the windows for the ceremony.
Representatives and speakers at the event included:
- Glen Pratt, CEO of George Gordon Developments Ltd.
- Lynda Bigknife, CEO of Starblanket Cree Nation/Red Dog Holdings Ltd.
- Rupen Pandya, CEO of SaskPower
- Hon. Don Morgan, MLA and Minister responsible for SaskPower
- Robert Apold, executive director, Natural Forces
- Guy Lonechild, CEO, First Nations Power Authority
- David Pratt, Second Vice-Chief, Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations
This project represents SaskPower’s commitment to renewable energy and working with First Nations and this project moves them closer to their 2050 goal of net zero GHG emissions.
Pesâkâstêw is one of several projects taking place around the province but participants were excited to be the first completed, and highlights the importance and benefits of First Nations involvement in projects like this. With purposeful planning from start to finish this project included the involvement of First Nations and Indigenous participants at each step to ensure this wasn’t a one time project but a partnership that builds for the future.
From the beginning, local companies were engaged for some of the environmental reports for the project and a large number of investment dollars went directly into the Weyburn area. A significant portion of the contracts went to Indigenous companies, to ensure that from exploration through construction and to ongoing maintenance, the Pesâkâstêw Solar Project builds a legacy of prosperity and growth for everyone involved.
There were gifts exchanged to end the grand opening and the afternoon concluded with a reflective message from Elder Lyndsay Starr who urged attendees to examine the meaning of the gifts, the importance of language, and the spirit of this project as a necessary and large step towards reconciliation and a return to the spirit of the original treaties.
The grand opening concluded with the sun shining down on a successful project that will highlight the possibilities of future renewable energy projects like this when government, industry and First Nations collaborate.