President and CEO, Neyaskweyahk Group of Companies Inc.
Ermineskin Cree Nation, Central Alberta
Project: Sundancer LP
Sam likes to push ideas and ventures that impact his community, people, and environment. The community of Ermineskin Cree Nation is considered one of the more economically stable First Nation communities in Canada thanks to a large supply of oil and gas revenues. Now, the community is looking to diversify, using a Western Economic Diversification grant to build an array of solar panels, the Sundancer LP project. This aligns perfectly with Sam’s vision of an Ermineskin Cree Nation that generates enough energy for self-sustainability, and is a smart-grid community.
For a community that uses on average 5 MW of power at any given time, the 1 MWAC, ground-mounted solar PV system is a big project. Not only does it present the opportunity to participate in energy generation and energy independence, it generates revenues and has created 10-15 jobs for installation. It will also create one long-term skilled job for maintenance of the panels. The project is distribution-connected, because that way the community can gain more than with a micro-grid installation: “We want to earn revenues so that we can continue to reinvest back into our community and create jobs, revitalize our economy and build capacity in our people.”
Sam emphasizes that this project is great for the community, and not only economically, saying, “The Sundancer project is an effective means of achieving a number of goals and objectives and is a great fit with community values… The elders would be able to share how important the relationship with the sun is better than I [can], however we all know the sun is source power for the world. To be able to generate power and revenues from our brother, the sun (Pesim), is amazing.”