Solar Lighting A First Nation Life Saver

Located on the northern end of the Williston Reservoir in British Coumbia, residents of the remote Tsay Keh Dene First Nation rely on a 4,500-foot aviation runway to move medical supplies, groceries and community members between nearby towns. The runway is essential for conducting medical evacuations, since the village is a five-hour drive from the nearest hospital. The absence of a runway edge and threshold lighting after dusk has meant medical evacuation crews must arrive during the day – a limitation that could mean the difference between life and death.

This month, however, the Tsay Keh Dene First Nation announced it is outfitting the remote airfield with solar LED lighting systems provided by Carmanah Technologies. The new completely solar-powered airfield will be the first of its kind in British Columbia.


Image Via Carmanah

Since 1996, Carmanah has deployed thousands of solar LED airfield lights worldwide for rural and major airfields including Los Angeles International, Chicago O’Hare and Vancouver International Airport. Carmanah says its solar airfield lights are designed to be reliable and quickly and easily deployed. The lights are self-contained, require no external wiring and operate independently of grid or generator power. In the tradition of manufacturers exposing their products to extreme testing conditions, the video below shows a Carmanah aviation light operating under water, being sprayed with a fire hose, hit with a baseball bat, and frozen in a block of ice, among other abuses.

The Tsay Keh Dene First Nation airfield project was funded by British Columbia’s Innovative Clean Energy Fund, a $25 million fund to support innovation in the energy sector. According to the province’s Energy Plan, innovation and conservation will be the primary vehicles for achieving self-sufficiency in the energy sector by 2016.

Lauren Craig is a writer and consultant living in Seattle, WA. She holds an M.S. in International Development from Tulane University, and is co-founder of Sustainable Systems Integrators, LLC., an employee-owned solar energy design and installation firm in New Orleans, LA. She is also certified in PV design and installation by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).

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