Energy for communities in the Canadian High Arctic always is relying on external supplies mostly by ship. Despite less ice along the eastern coast and the early opening of the Northwest Passage which makes it easier for supply ships to reach the remote communities in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, it still is a difficult and especially costly affair. Ironically, as the communities will receive oil and diesel for energy production, they add to the climate change by burning fossil fuels. Clyde River will now go a different way.

Vancouver Renewable Energy Coop Solar Installer, Duncan Martin (L) and Logistics Coordinator for Greenpeace Canada, Claude Beausjour install solar panels at the Clyde River community centre. Greenpeace has come to deliver solar panels and offer a series of lectures and workshops in Clyde River. Picture: Greenpeace
Vancouver Renewable Energy Coop Solar Installer, Duncan Martin (L) and Logistics Coordinator for Greenpeace Canada, Claude Beausjour install solar panels at the Clyde River community centre. Greenpeace has come to deliver solar panels and offer a series of lectures and workshops in Clyde River. Picture: Greenpeace

The tiny Inuit hamlet of Clyde River in the Canadian Arctic, more than 2’800 km north of Ottawa, is turning to star and solar power to highlight its fight against climate change and seismic testing in Davis Strait. Residents of Clyde River, in Nunavut, are celebrating the installation of 27 solar panels on their Community Hall, with help from Greenpeace and the Vancouver Renewable Energy Coop, which is expected to increase the community’s energy independence while cutting its energy bill. Solar technology will enable the community to rely less on expensive diesel-generated electricity throughout the spring, summer, and fall months and will result in savings of up $4,500 a year, said Greenpeace. This is a substantial amount for the small community with only approximately 900 inhabitants. “This is a happy day for Clyde River. The solar panels on our Community Hall will allow us to produce energy with less diesel while saving money at the same time that we reinvest into youth programs,” James Qillaq, the mayor of Clyde River, said in a statement. “Renewable energy that does not harm nature is exactly what we want for our planet. We are proving that solar energy is a real possibility in the Arctic. Destructive seismic blasting is just not needed.”

Vancouver Renewable Energy Coop Solar Installer, Duncan Martin (L), actor, writer and activist, Emma Thompson and Executive Director of Greenpeace Canada, Joanna Kerr watch entertainment during the solar celebration at the Clyde River community centre. Picture: Greenpeace
Vancouver Renewable Energy Coop Solar Installer, Duncan Martin (L), actor, writer and activist, Emma Thompson and Executive Director of Greenpeace Canada, Joanna Kerr watch entertainment during the solar celebration at the Clyde River community centre. Picture: Greenpeace

The Inuit hamlet has also turned to star power to highlight its high-profile fight against plans for seismic testing in the waters of ecologically fragile Davis Strait, between Canada and Greenland. The community played host to Oscar-winning British actress, climate activist and storyteller Emma Thompson. After her stay in Clyde River, the actress hosted an event in Toronto to share stories from her experience in the Canadian Arctic and on board Greenpeace’s ship the Arctic Sunrise, which brought in the solar panels and the crew to install them. During her 10 days in Clyde River, she participated in a series of community activities and sailed to some of the ecological hotspots under threat from seismic blasting, Greenpeace said.

The residents of Clyde River, on the northeastern coast of Baffin Island, want the Supreme Court of Canada to revoke the permit granted to an international consortium of exploration companies by Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) in June of 2014 to conduct a seismic testing project to detect and measure the presence of petroleum and natural gas deposits in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait. They argue they have never been properly consulted about the proposed seismic survey which would involve “detonating air guns that are 100,000 time louder than a jet engine for 24 hours a day for five months per year for a period of five years.” Nader Hasan, the lawyer representing Clyde River residents, said his clients fear “irreparable harm” to their way of life if the migratory patterns of marine mammals are disrupted as a result of seismic testing. The community will get a chance to present its views to Canada’s highest court on November 30. “The Arctic is melting largely because of oil and gas consumption. The response of gas and oil conglomerates is to rejoice, pile in and seismically blast the place in search for more,” Thompson said in a statement. “It’s a ghastly carousel of destruction and greed.”

Emma Thompson and former mayor of Clyde River, Jerry Natanine, draw attention to a comment of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stating “The government only grants permits. The communities grant permission”. Picture: Greenpeace
Emma Thompson and former mayor of Clyde River, Jerry Natanine, draw attention to a comment of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stating “The government only grants permits. The communities grant permission”. Picture: Greenpeace

Source: Eye of the Arctic / Radio Canada