As Canada moves toward net zero, innovation is critical to powering low-carbon solutions in every region of the country. Canada’s forest sector plays a central role in combating climate change, driving innovation and creating economic opportunities for rural and Indigenous communities.

With this in mind, Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Natural Resources, has announced a $35-million investment for the Whitesand First Nation owned Sagatay Co-Generation Limited Partnership to deploy a combined heat and power facility using locally sourced wood waste to produce energy for the communities. The facility will reduce the use of diesel fuel for heat and electricity in Whitesand First Nation, and the communities of Armstrong and Collins, Ontario.

“The Government of Canada is investing in an important local energy solution that will cut emissions from diesel fuel and provide good jobs in northern Ontario,” said Wilkinson. “This $35-million federal investment is helping to power low-carbon solutions in the region while supporting Indigenous leadership. I would like to congratulate the Sagatay Co-Generation Limited Partnership and all of those involved in enabling this important initiative.”

Once operational, the 6.5-megawatt facility will connect to the local micro-grid and provide power for the three communities, displacing diesel consumption and improving local air quality. The facility will power clean and renewable industrial growth in the region as the electricity generated will also provide heat and power to a new wood pellet plant and a fully electric wood merchandising yard, which supports good jobs.

This project will help the three communities reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, decrease emissions and demonstrate the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of biomass heat and power. This project also enables increased local Indigenous economic development and employment by providing an opportunity to participate in the local bioeconomy by using renewable sources of heat.

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Announcements like this are another example of how working in partnership delivers real results — good jobs, local economic growth and clean air for generations to come.

“Protecting our climate is the challenge of our lifetime and we need all hands on deck. I am proud of the vision and determination of Sagatay Co-Generation LP to stay focused on completing this project which will reduce the use of diesel fuel for heat and energy,” said Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services and Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay – Superior North.

“The project will benefit Whitesand First Nation who are the owners of Sagatay Co-Generation LP, and help the entire region. This is economic reconciliation in action. Congratulations to everyone involved.”

The micro-grid currently includes an annual diesel consumption volume equivalent to over 1.3 million litres (2022). This initiative will reduce this rate while driving down costs and emissions.

“On behalf of Whitesand First Nation, I would like to personally thank Minister Wilkinson for Canada’s continued support for our Bio-Economy Centre project,” said Chief Allan Gustafson of the Whitesand First Nation.

“Whitesand’s vision of energy independence and economic growth began in 1992 when we proposed a biomass cogeneration facility. Although that proposal was not accepted, and despite the many barriers we have faced through the years, we did not give up and today our vision of a sustainable future through the use of our local forest is at hand.”

Federal funding for this project is provided by Natural Resources Canada’s Smart Renewables and Electrification Pathways (SREPs) program, a $1.56-billion program that provides support for smart renewable energy and electrical grid modernization projects, including projects that support capacity building.

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Featured image credit: Todd Deimer/Unsplash.

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