Clark Builders has established a strong reputation in the North by successfully executing projects in remote communities. A notable example of our expertise is the construction of a 2.2 MW solar array in Fort Chipewyan, located 220 kilometers north of Fort McMurray, in 2020.
Fort Chipewyan, a community without permanent road access, heavily relies on diesel fuel for its electricity due to its disconnection from Alberta's power grid. However, the dependence on diesel fuel poses increasing risks, not only due to its negative environmental impact but also because the ice roads used for transportation (within a limited 6-week window each year) have become busier and more unstable. In fact, during the same year, the instability of the ice roads led local energy authorities to doubt the safety of transporting the required amount of diesel fuel to meet Fort Chipewyan's electricity needs for the upcoming year. Although airlifting diesel into the community was considered, a more sustainable and long-term solution was sought, leading to the decision to implement a solar farm, for which we were awarded the contract.
The project included subcontracting the installation of 644 helical screw piles, followed by the installation of 176 tables of steel racking. Clark Builders attached 6,144 solar panels to the racking using approximately 14,000 prefabricated clips to secure them in place.
Challenges arose during construction due to the unusually unstable ice roads, which narrowed the window for transporting materials. To mitigate potential delays within this critical timeframe, we strategically staged the equipment in Edmonton along with the scaffolding supplied by our equipment rental partner, NorthStar Equipment Rentals. This proactive measure ensured enhanced efficiency and timely delivery of all necessary tools and materials for the project. Upon the closure of the ice roads, the equipment and materials were transported back from Fort Chipewyan to Edmonton via barge, after which they were loaded onto trucks and returned to our base.
The completion of Fort Chipewyan's ground-mounted solar farm marks a significant milestone. The solar farm is projected to supply over 25% of the community's electricity needs, resulting in a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by more than 2,000 tons annually. Additionally, the solar farm is expected to displace approximately 800,000 liters of diesel fuel consumption per year, promoting sustainability and environmental preservation in the region.
ATCO Electric Ltd.