Riding a new HEAT WAVE
First Nations embrace geothermal, solar energy sources
THE INTERLAKE — Householders on Peguis and Fisher River First Nations are leading the way in a cutting-edge project to exploit a clean energy source, save a pile of money and underscore aboriginal values of living with the land, not just off it. They are embarking on the province’s largest geothermal venture, heating more than 200 homes — and a regulation-sized indoor hockey arena. The undertaking means eliminating the long-standing practice of heating those homes with wood and electricity and replacing it with the newest, and essentially the oldest, method of heating, using sources within the earth. Typical household monthly heating bills of $600 will be sharply reduced as will the risk of house fires, a scourge on First Nations. Not to mention soot, uneven heat and longrunning winter colds. “Burning wood, traditionally people have done that in our community. That’s a renewable resource, but when you have a population that’s doubled in the last 14 years, it puts a huge demand on wood,” said Peguis Chief Glenn Hudson, an engineer by profession. “So we looked at alternative energy sources... It’s something we feel we have a responsibility as First Nations to promote... green energy, sustainable-energy projects. We need to promote that as First Nations people.” And that meant geothermal, along with some solar energy. The key man in making it possible is Brent Laufer, whose Laufer Enterprises hooked The Forks up to geothermal heat and is now working with both First Nations in a multiyear conversion program. So far, 128 homes on Fisher River and 110 on Peguis have been converted. Twenty Peguis homes also use solar panels to heat hot water,
Clayton Sinclair (in orange) and Lyle McKay install a geothermal furnace. Not only is it cutting heating bills, it is providing employment for residents.