Photo Credit: Photo | UVIC

Ocean Energy Powers a New Beginning on Nootka Island

"You can’t undo history, but you can change the future."

The first-of-its-kind wave energy system that could be a model for other small coastal communities around the world

Transitioning away from fossil fuels is more urgent than ever, and people on the Island are becoming more innovative.

Especially in some of the VanIsle’s most remote and rugged regions.

Yuquot, Nootka Island is known as the “center of the universe” to the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation (MMFN).

The first point of contact between settlers and indigenous peoples in BC was once a thriving community and trade center.

However, the federal government forcibly moved residents from the area in the 1950s.

Now, people are trying to return to Nootka Island. But access to a sustainable energy source is the main thing standing in their way.

“It is the wish and dream of every single MMFN person that I know, and I know most of them, to return there and to live there and to go back to a way of life there that was going on for thousands of years, said Roger Dunlop, MMFN Lands Resources and Fisheries Manager.

The natural resources on Nootka are plentiful, but the area is volatile.

It’s no easy task to “tame” this area to produce a traditional energy grid to sustain a whole community.

That’s where Victoria’s Pacific Regional Institute for Marine Energy Discovery (PRIMED) comes in. They’ve stopped trying to tame it and are utilizing its natural flow instead.

PRIMED is working to harness the intense waves that surround Yuquot as a green energy source.

Producing energy from ocean waves has been done before, but never to power an entire community.

And never with waters as strong as Yuquots.

“We’re trying to harness some very powerful natural resources,” said Brad Buckham, Chair, Mechanical Engineering and Co-Director, of PRIMED

“If you can make an innovative, first-of-its-kind wave energy system functional in Yuoqut, that means that it can succeed anywhere.”

If the first-of-its-kind project succeeds, it will be a monumental move in transitioning away from fossil fuels.

“The Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation is refusing to take the easy way out by continuing to rely on diesel fuels… [This] has the potential to be a model of how wave energy is harnessed in small coastal communities here in Canada and around the world,” said Buckham.

“This clean energy generation project is kind of step two in the re-occupation of Yuquot,” said MMFN’s Dunlop

Working with the resources around us rather than trying to force impractical systems to function is an excellent step in the right direction.

TD Bank thought so as well.

They awarded PRIMED with a Million dollar grant through their TD Ready Challenge.

This is a massive boost for the project; with the funding, they hope to complete and execute a detailed plan within two years.

Buckham said that once PREMED completes the project, they hope to assist people and communities disproportionately affected by climate change far beyond Nootka Sound.

“The idea of reinvigorating a community and helping them return to their traditional lands is powerful. You can’t undo history, but you can change the future.” 

But launching the new technology in Yuquot is the ideal beginning to lead to something even more significant.