W Dusk brings Indigenous approach to sustainable energy solutions

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The name of Indigenous energy group W Dusk was born from an abbreviation of David Isaac’s traditional M’ikmaq name, which means “northern lights”. It was given to him by his grandfather, also named David Isaac.

The company develops Indigenous community-owned and -operated energy projects that endeavour to work in harmony with nature. They offer renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydrokinetic, and most recently constructed a solar farm in Haida Gwaii, BC. The 100-kilowatt solar system on the Haida Heritage Centre is the largest community-owned project of its kind in Canada.

The W Dusk team’s expertise allows them to step in at any point of a community’s sustainable-energy project, including project management, planning, infrastructure development or the implementation of new technology.

The ultimate goal is to cultivate local economic growth and foster community initiatives that benefit those involved well into the future. A guiding principle of Indigenous ownership.

“We work throughout Canada, primarily in First Nations communities,” Dave Isaac told the Nation. “We’re essentially community energy developers.

“We take on projects from onset to implementation but what’s different about us is that we have an inverse model compared to our competitors. Our ethos is to be community owned – we think about the community first, before profits.”

While most in the energy industry are primarily concerned with the bottom line, W Dusk is focused on developing lasting solutions that power the communities they serve not only with electricity, but also with a sense of pride, identity and sovereignty.

“We have community planners as well,” Isaac continued. “It’s a very long-term approach to real community development. We lead with renewables but then we get involved with other things like food systems and housing. Again, as much as we’re an energy developer, we’re also a community developer.”

With plenty of small- to large-scale projects already on the go, W Dusk Energy hopes to expand internationally. They want to spread the idea that the built environment and physical infrastructure of one’s home “should reflect the Indigenous values, culture and natural beauty of community.”

W Dusk’s vision of sustainable energy is slowing taking root across the country.

Isaac says the Haida Heritage Centre project is a mix of modern and traditional. “There are carved poles and [the solar features] are built like longhouses. The aesthetic is quite breathtaking; the application of a modern Indigenous-built environment is inspiring.”

The company also built a small ground mount system with community youth. “We call it ‘soul art’, that’s what we do in every community we work with,” Isaac explained. “Obviously we can’t send the youth up 30 feet in the air, so we helped them build art installations also inspired by the longhouse, using local resources.”

Isaac incorporates the natural environment around the project to help create the cultural aesthetic. “For our last project we harvested old-growth cedar and milled it ourselves, with a Haida architect. What we built was inspired by what a longhouse would look like after a century of serving the community. We built these art pieces with the local youth, covered them in solar panels and created this solid structure. They’re art installations that power the community.”

At the end of the day, Isaac says he hopes that W Dusk’s work will remind people that there are environmentally friendly alternatives to big energy that can not only provide power, but also be a source of inspiration.

“We want people to see it every day,” he concluded. “They need to see it and be proud of it.”

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