Horse Lake First Nation (HLFN) broke ground last Wednesday for the first-of-its kind energy junction that will create a year-round greenhouse, along with heat and power with zero emissions.
The $3.5 million project funded by HLFN is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
“I was overwhelmed by the surrounding community in the support of the project,” said Horse Lake Chief Ramona Horseman; delegates from the county and city of Grande Prairie were in attendance along with representatives of energy companies in the South Peace.
Horseman said she is looking forward to “meaningful, long-term sustainable employment independence” for her community.
“I commend Horse Lake chief and council and their partners in this area,” said Treaty 8 Grand Chief Arthur Noskey.
“It's going to be self-sustaining, and I think that's just incredible,” said Horseman.
“The best part about this is that this is a zero-waste, zero-emissions facility,” said Kari McDonald, CEO Bio-Energy Solutions Inc.
The plant will create heat and power that can be used in the greenhouse and algae farm; any CO2 produced from the process will then be fed to the algae, explained McDonald.
The closed-loop bio-refinery will convert bio-mass into power and allow for an algae harvest and any other fruits or vegetables the nation decides to grow.
“It’s a really different approach to utilizing with technology to actually have the community decide which way it wants to go with the technology,” said McDonald.
Once completed, it will create about five jobs and approximately four seasonal jobs in trucking, said Azar Kamran, Horse Lake CEO.
The project is also modular, so it can be easily expanded if the nation chooses to do so.
“We can just keep on adding to it forever as long as the market can sustain it,” he said.
Horseman is looking to the future and has already started training people in the nation in accounting and Class 1 driving.
“If I need drivers, I will have drivers,” she said.
It will be using many of the skill sets that community members already possess from other industries including oil and gas and agriculture and combining them, said McDonald.
“It's in a new direction, it's an emerging market, and it's going to be around a long time,” she said.
Horse Lake is looking to create a more sustainable economic development using a four-pillar system, said Kamran.
“One is the economic viability of every project that we do so that it sustains itself and stands on its own feet and produces some revenues for the nation.
“The second pillar is the jobs that it creates for the members and the surrounding community.
“The third pillar is the environmental pillar, which looks at the impact on the land and the environment.
“The fourth pillar is the value of the product to humanity at large.”
He said this project boasts all four pillars.
“The value of the product in this being soil reclamation, reforestation, and increasing the productivity of the soils for the farmers.”
“Being First Nation, it's always the mindset that you take what you need, and this opportunity here is capitalizing on what’s there,” said Treat 8 Grande Chief.
“We all need to protect the land, every single one of us,” said Horseman.
Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News