Solar Power is Burning Bright

A bold new project will move the Malahat First Nation closer to energy independence.

Solar Power is Burning Bright - Douglas Aug/Sept 2023
Steve Henry Jr. and Savannah Goldsmith, Malahat Nation members and Environmental Guardians. Photo By: Jeffrey Bosdet.

The Malahat First Nation has taken a huge step toward long-term energy independence. In collaboration with Vancouver-based clean-energy companies Solar Earth Technologies and Shift Clean Energy, the Nation will solarize one of its administration buildings, which doubles as an emergency response centre.

Solar Earth will install cutting-edge panels in hardscapes around the building, and a Shift energy storage system will stow captured energy. The 370-member Malahat community, whose lands are located northwest of Victoria on the west side of the Saanich Inlet, has completed solar projects like this before, but none using innovative paving-integrated panels. 

The Nation has long-term business and economic development goals that include a proposed film studio. It also owns a 55-acre business park used for commercial and light-industrial activities, which include a biodiesel production facility and cardlock. The Nation wants to add businesses to the park, which in turn will increase energy demands. 

Currently, the Nation is reliant on BC Hydro for most of its energy needs. Tristan Gale, the Nation’s executive director of environment and sustainable development and acting director of economic development, says, “We have heard from BC Hydro that we’re pushing up against what they can supply over the long term.” The Nation’s business and economic development goals account for this possible shortfall.

Gale says long-term member prosperity and economic development are at stake if they can’t bridge a possible energy deficit.

But the Nation has a plan to do so with clean energy. Solutions include using more solar technology to capture energy in the summer months and shoulder seasons. They are also looking into the possibility of using their man-made lake to generate hydroelectric power in the winter months. They’re also seeking cleaner energy solutions to power part of their industrial operations on the Bamberton Lands, which currently run on generators.

The Malahat expect their Solar Earth/Shift project — the first of its kind in Canada — to be completed this summer.