The newly formed not-for-profit, Indigenous-led Okanagan Language and Sunshine Society (OKLSS) is aiming to build a solar-powered facility that will function as a training centre for First Nations.
The proposed facility will be located in the midst of a solar farm and agrivoltaic test site on a 6.9 hectare (17 acre) plot of land belonging to Osoyoos Indian Band (OIB) member Jacob Kruger.
The aim is to meet the increasing demand for knowledge and skills in solar power, solar installation, solar and electrical safety, power management, and yield analysis.
Kruger has partnered with Jeremy Dresner who has more than 14 years of experience in energy efficiency and more than 10 years of experience with solar in numerous jurisdictions.
Dresner also happens to be the Energy and Climate Resilience Supervisor at Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS), although there is no connection between the RDOS and this project.
“In tandem with the solar farm, we saw that there is an opportunity to build a training facility on-site to provide multiple real-life training opportunities for band members and other indigenous men and women”, Dresner said.
“The facility could also be opened to school students from the surrounding south Okanagan communities, improving opportunities for growing relationships between all communities in one of the sunniest parts of Western Canada.”
The engagement plan for an Indigenous-led initiative focusing on career pathway options for the community
has received a letter of support from all the Chiefs of the Okanagan Nation Alliance.
The facility is also being eyed for other community training initiatives such as language instruction.
“A building like this is unlikely to be used full-time as a training classroom, so we are looking at additional ways it can add value to Community,” said Kruger.
“Language revitalization is extremely important right now, and we are excited to explore the idea of a recording studio for elders and music, a podcasting suite being a part of this building, and other flexible spaces for future uses.”
Community engagement sessions begin next week on April 24, 25 and 26 in Princeton, Westbank and Oliver, respectively.
The engagement sessions have been made possible by funding from Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN).
The roadshow-styled events intended to bring together indigenous leaders, members, support organizations, and educational personnel as well as non-indigenous partners from neighbouring local governments, the renewable energy industry, educational institutions and other relevant stakeholders.
Expert guest speakers will discuss the solar industry and career opportunities in this growing industry. A lunch will be served, and attendees can view and discuss proposed designs for the training centre and a location map of the property in Osoyoos.
Attendees will also participate in a facilitated, interactive session to provide thoughts and
feedback on demand for training, types of training, alternate building usage opportunities and to gather any other ideas that might arise.
For those who cannot attend, an online survey will be available.
The event is free to attend but attendance numbers may be restricted based on the capacity of each venue. Registration is required.