By:John Connell (YSEC)
Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation (SNGRDC) was the recipient of the Aboriginal Project of the Year Award for 2016. The award, presented by the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association, recognises the significance of the 500-kilowatt (KW) Oneida Business Park Rooftop Solar Project. This initiative not only provides direct environmental benefits through solar energy production but also shows how local leadership can create strong partnerships for smart energy solutions and offer a wide range of social and economic benefits.
The Oneida Business Park Rooftop Solar Project came to fruition as a result of the historic 2009 Ontario Green Energy and Green Economy Act. It was ultimately the result of a partnership agreement between Six Nations of the Grand River and the County of Brant. This agreement highlighted shared goals to develop sustainable community projects, draw attention to unresolved land matters, promote a stronger partnership between the two parties, and demonstrate Six Nations’ capacity as a viable and valuable business partner. SNGRDC holds a 90% ownership stake in the project and Brant County owns the remaining 10%.
This progressive collaborative partnership is important for the future of these two communities. Chief Ava Hill said, “We are pleased to maximise the utility of land already developed at Oneida Business Park as an opportunity to demonstrate our on-going commitment to clean energy, and a much-needed source of revenue to help fund future community needs. We appreciate Brant County’s foresight in looking to Six Nations as an important partner within the region.”
Ron Eddy, Mayor of Brant County shared his enthusiasm for the collaboration, by stating, “This partnership project is an excellent example of the economic, social, and environmental benefits that can be created when two communities work together for the common good.” He further echoed the shared sentiment that “We look forward to future partnership opportunities with Six Nations.”
The Oneida project generates 500-kilowatts of energy through 2,307 installed solar panels. It can power approximately 77 homes per year (17% of homes in the region) while remaining carbon neutral. During its development and installation, members of Six Nations gained valuable employment opportunities and first-hand experience, which is one of the many direct benefits spurred through collaborative, community solar projects, such as this one.
Over the lifetime of its FIT contract (20 years), the project will yield approximately $2.5 million in consolidated net cash flow to the community. The proceeds from it will be allocated to the Six Nations of the Grand River Economic Development Trust (EDT), which will invest in projects that will positively impact the Six Nations of the Grand River community as a whole.
SNGRDC has also entered into other partnerships developing a diverse portfolio of renewable generation facilities. This portfolio currently generates 860+ megawatts of renewable energy through 13 solar and wind energy projects.
Renewable energy investments are not only sound energy alternatives, but they also open the possibility for a brighter and more holistic economic future. The collaboration between SNGRDC and the County of Brant represents a model for localised sustainable development. This model has the potential to pioneer avenues for collaborations between municipalities and their neighbouring Indigenous communities that will foster collaboration, mutual learning and understanding while yielding environmental and socio-economic benefits.
SNGRDC and the County of Brant continue to seek opportunities to collaborate on future projects that will further strengthen the relationship between the two communities and will allow them to build a sustainable future together.
Nicole Kohoko, Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation
Matt Jamieson, Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation