Tlingit Homeland Energy is Powering a Sustainable Hydroelectric Future for the Tlingit First Nation in Atlin, BC

Map of Atlin, BC

Written by Guy

March 1, 2024

On February 23,  2024, Gary Gazankas, executive vice president – energy for Tlingit Homeland Energy Limited, delivered a one-hour lunch and learn on the Atlin Hydro Expansion Project being undertaken by the Taku River Tlingit First Nation. A full video recording of this session can be found here:

The Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN), located in Atlin, BC, is a small remote community of about 400 people. TRTFN territory covers over 40,000 square kilometers in BC, Yukon, and Alaska and consists of varied terrain including high mountains and expansive forests, and a diversity of natural resources, including wild, salmon-filled rivers.

TRTFN has been working to develop their land in a way that ensures the preservation of their wildlife and fisheries. To combat climate change, they have set upon a renewable energy path that includes hydro generation and green hydrogen.

Electricity generation

One hundred years ago, Atlin was a self-sufficient community with its own micro hydro dam. But over the years they shifted to diesel to generate electricity, a decision they came to regret, so they are now in the process of moving back to micro hydro power.

Their diesel power plant, built in 1978, was the primary power source for Atlin, burning 1.3 million litres of diesel fuel annually. In addition to the pollution from burning this much fuel, there were significant environmental risks involved in transporting and storing diesel fuel for the plant.

Consequently, TRTFN decided to replace the diesel plan by returning to hydro generation. In 2009, they built a 2.0 MW hydro generating facility, large enough to supply their entire community with electricity. This plant eliminated the generation of about 4,000 tonnes of GHGs annually, which will amount to 120,000 tonnes of GHGs over the next 20-25 years. What they learned through this experience has positioned them as experts in Indigenous clean energy generation.

Today they are planning a second hydro facility, a 9 MW hydro-electric plant to be located on Pine Creek and Sunrise Lake near Atlin, which will be directly connected to the Yukon power grid. This plant will remove 360 million litres of diesel from the road, and prevent the release of over a million tonnes of GHGs over 40 years. It will also substantially reduce southern Yukon’s reliance on non-renewable energy each winter.

The project is being developed with environmental monitoring and stewardship that will help ensure the preservation of the Surprise Lake ecosystem and ensure there are no unintended impacts. At the same time, it will serve to educate a new generation about the unique gifts their land provides.

Green hydrogen

TRTFN is also putting together a pilot project to use excess hydro-electric power to produce green hydrogen. Renewable electricity will be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen can then be used to power hydrogen-powered vehicles. These run comparably to gasoline-powered cars, including being quick to refuel and with a range of 700 km.

How the community benefits from these projects

Locally generating renewable energy enhances the resilience of First Nations communities by reducing dependence on external suppliers, increasing self-sufficiency, and enabling communities to withstand and recover from adverse conditions. 

These projects will create new permanent, quality jobs that will provide stable employment for 4 to 6 people over the next four decades. In addition, during the construction years, they will attract to the area experienced builders and contractors, who will provide skills training and transferable work experience for more than 170 community members. They will also create opportunities for local businesses, because workers will need to be fed and housed. 

Moreover, it’s expected that the power plant will grow Atlin’s tax base, contributing over $150,000 annually in property taxes, which can be used improve the region’s school and other community programs.

What TRTFN learned from these projects

TRTFN learned a great deal from undertaking these projects —  learning they hope to share to enable other First Nations and remote communities to make similar improvements. Clearly defining at the outset what to work on is the first step. Then, obtaining community support as early as possible in the process is critical to success. Getting funding is also essential, but they emphasize starting small to gain experience. Once expertise has been gained, expansion is easier. For more information, contact Gary Gazankas,

Tlingit First Nation canoe

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  1. Judith Acheson

    I have concerns about hydrogen fueled cars. I believe they stopped using blimps for air transport. Can’t say for sure– would need to do the research but think hydrogen as a fuel could be quite volatile in accidents

  2. Judith Acheson

    Has there been provision made for any fish or aquatic life of the Taku River that may be effected by this hydro project?


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