T'Sou-ke Nation, a leader in use of solar energy - DETAILS / PHOTOS

T'Sou-ke First Nation Innovation and Demonstration Solar Project: Harnessing the Sun to Produce Clean Renewable Energy and Economic Self-Sufficiency, Sooke, BC

March 30, 2009

 In a spectacular marriage of traditional values and state of the art technology, the T'Sou-ke First Nation on Vancouver Island has already become BC's most-solar-powered intensive community. As the first phase of a five-year plan designed to end the community's dependence on fossil fuels, the T'Sou-ke Nation is installing solar panels to pre heat hot water and photovoltaic panels to create clean electricity to power potentially large savings as hydro prices spike. In the process the Nation is creating much-needed skills in a new fast growing industry. 


T'Sou-ke is truly a Solar Community. The whole community has contributed to the vision and is participating in the implementation; much of the work is being done by community members who are training as solar technicians. The innovative, culturally appropriate training program has produced 9 certified solar installers. The installation of solar hot water panels on the first 25 houses will be complete by the end of March. Then there is BC's largest photovoltaic solar array demonstrating three models most likely to be needed by on and off grid First Nations.

T'Sou-ke Nation leaders intend that the project, named "Sum-SHA-Thut", the Sencoten term  for "sunshine", will lead to many benefits for First Nations:

  * Provide a demonstration site to inspire remote and diesel dependent communities to "kick the tire" and learn about solar power, First Nation to Nation.

  * Bring about a drastic reduction in fossil fuel emissions and improve the health of First Nations people by reducing particulates that cause asthma and other pollution-linked diseases;

  * Create sustainable "green-collar" jobs in communities hard-hit by the loss of job in forestry, fisheries and building trades; 

  * Help set the stage for Canadian First Nations to become leaders in renewable energy solutions.

"For most of our history, First Nations were rooted in the traditions of sustainable living and respect for the land," says T'Sou-ke Chief Gordon Planes, "and the Sum-SHA-Thut project is the first step in achieving energy self-sufficiency once again."

"Starting with support from the Innovative Clean Energy Fund, T'Sou-ke Nation is making a real community success of their solar energy project," adds Small Business, Technology and Economic Development Minister Ida Chong, who will flip the switch to bring the photovoltaic system online at a ceremony at the T'Sou-ke First Nation this morning. "Energy

self-sufficiency - a contemporary objective linked to T'Sou-ke Nation's deep cultural connection to the natural environment, will play a vital role in supporting future economic opportunities," says Minister Chong.

Chief Planes says that the T'Sou-ke Nation will share its knowledge and help empower First Nations to lead the way to a sustainable future for their own communities and the community at large. To that end, the T'Sou-ke Nation is sponsoring a Solar Gathering on Saturday July 11th 2009 and will invite interested First Nations and other communities to attend and learn about the effectiveness of the technology and gain insights into the financing of the project.

"It will be consistent with our Longhouse ideals," says Chief Planes. "We are giving this information away free of charge to show how sustainability can be achieved once again, using the power of the sun, wind and sea".

"T'Sou-ke is a proving ground for community-wide, solar hot water and demonstrates a sustainable alternative to diesel for remote First Nations communities" said Joe Thwaites from Taylor Munro of his partnership with T'Sou-ke First Nation on The Sum-SHA-Thut demonstration project. 

"The customized training program that graduates 9 trainee today breaks ground by teaching based on an "oral-tradition" approach which respects culture and harnesses the diverse skills of the community as both teachers and learners" said Donna Morton of First Power -- a hybrid business and non-profit project -- dedicated to supporting First Nation energy autonomy.

'This is a very interesting Photovoltaic (PV) project as it demonstrates 3 different configurations of PV systems for remote as well as on grid small communities in a BC type of climate" said Sia Vojdani from Unity Integration, Project Manager PV.

"BC leads Canada with over 1000 people employed in the solar industry.  The province has many growing companies like Victoria's Home Energy Solutions and Burnaby's Day4 Energy working hard to make solar mainstream.  We are pleased to see the Provincial Government support the solar industry and this showcase for solar systems on homes and buildings.  The clear message is that Solar has a legitimate place as part of BC's clean energy future." said David Egles from HES Home Energy Solutions Ltd, responsible for the solar electric system design and integration into the T'Sou-ke Nation buildings.

"Day4 is pleased that its industry leading technology is being implemented in T'sou-ke First Nation's project. We have been a supporter since the project began." said John MacDonald, CEO.  "Coincidently this is the largest installation of our solar power products in BC to date." 


Several federal and provincial governments have contributed finance to this scheme as have many business and non-profit groups, all of whom will be represented at the T'Sou-ke Solar Gathering. 

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To interview any of the participants or for more details on the program and the summer T'Sou-ke Solar Gathering, please contact:

Andrew Moore

Solar Community Program Manager

T'Sou-ke Nation

250 642 3957