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Living off-grid has it's advantages. It also comes with challenges!
Eitherway our team was up for the challenge. We installed an array of solar panels during our initial build. In 2022, these solar panels were upgraded for newer, more efficient panels which you will see outside the front of our lodge. We harness the power of the sun to keep the lights on at the lodge. We also use micro-hydro generators to top up that power generation. It is cool what you can achieve when there are no other options!
At the heart of this operation is an unwavering commitment to sustainability and responsible resource management. All aspects of business have these goals at the forefront of our actions; we shop local, serve local, utilize solar energy, and are committed to making as little impact on the planet as possible.
We have the privilege of residing among sustainably abundant natural resources and take advantage of the opportunity to utilize our local water ways through our consciously curated Micro-Hydro facility. This, along with gas burning generators and solar power, is the main power source fueling the entire operation. This also means a few small adjustments on your part to help the system be the most effective it can be!
To keep our beautiful lodges warm we have 2 x 500,000 BTU wood boilers which combined, produce output of 1 million BTU’s of heat. The boilers run during the winter only, so are lit around the end of October and are shut down for the year, around the end of April. Once lit the burners require daily management and maintenance to ensure they can operate at their maximum efficiency 24/7.
How does it work?
The heat produced from the burners, heats a glycol chamber. The glycol in this chamber is then pumped around a series of glycol circuits, which run underground to our Catshop and the Black Bear Lodge. The heat transferred through these glycol circuits heats all the floors both buildings, which in turn heats both buildings. This heat also heats all the hot water including our hot tub and the heated hot tub deck!
Managing this sustainable energy source
A big part preparing for winter is ensuring our wood pile is stocked for the winter. The wood boilers take 8-10, 1-metre-long logs at one time and are stoked 4-5 times a day to keep them burning round the clock. This means, during the winter we can burn the equivalent of up to 9 logging truck loads of wood. Our wood is sourced locally from around the property, first from fallen trees, then standing dead trees. We also work with the local logging companies to supply us with firewood. In addition to the wood boilers, we have 9 wood stoves/fireplaces across the property that are managed daily by our property team, to keep our buildings warm!
The Keefer team installed the micro-hydro dam in 2014, before the Black Bear lodge was built. This installation included a 20,000-litre reservoir installed 100 vertical metres above the lodge.
Connected by 2, 4-inch water lines, water travels down to a turbine which generates power. On average this system generates 1200w per hour.
From there the water that has been used to generate the energy, gets re-directed back into the creek, so there is no water used or wasted during this energy harvesting process.
Our first solar arrays were installed in 2016 during construction of the lodge. In 2022 we upgraded the system, which now features 10 solar arrays (80 panels total) doubling our solar production and enabling us to harvest up to 29kw during peak production.
To help us store energy we have a large battery bank in our Catshop.
The original battery bank was installed in 2015. In 2022 we replaced the batteries and can now store 1000amp hours.
When the load of the property is below the production of sustainable energy, the excess power is stored in this battery bank. When the power consumption exceeds sustainable energy production, and our batteries are drained below 40%, our system switches to a generator powered system, to fully re-charge the batteries.
Our aim is to develop our infrastructure to a state where we can store enough sustainable power in our battery bank to support power requirements throughout the night, and thus keep generator usage to an absolute minimum.
As Gostlin Keefer Lake lodge as a business grows, so must our infrastructure. With a continued focus on sustainable energy our 5-year plan will see us install a 2nd power system, to power the west-side of the property. With this we will see a new array of solar panels, new septic system, and new power system complete with its own battery bank. As technology advances, so do our goals of utilizing only sustainable power sources to run the property.
JOURNEY TO CARBON NEUTRAL
You may have heard us say it, but there is no cruising altitude at Keefer and this applies to our business and our sustainability goals.
The helicopter and snowcat (Helicat) business community are working towards implementing best practices for sustainability in mountain ecosystems. As an industry, we recognize that currently available technology does not allow for a perfectly sustainable helicopter or snowcat skiing operation. However, committing to current best practices and looking towards the next practices possible will allow us and our fellow operations to continue to evolve towards a more sustainable future.
FOCUSING ON OUR PRIORITIES
As an operation we are fully aligned with the mission statement and goals laid out by Helicat Canada and have put in place a plan to help us achieve these goals and work towards the greater goal of being a carbon neutral operation by 2030.
By the end of 2024, our aim is to have completed a full assessment of our operational footprint. From this we will develop clear strategic goals so that we can:
- Develop and implement strategies to decarbonise our business and reduce our carbon footprint
- Align our business metrics with the United Nations Sustainable Development goals
- Incorporate regenerative processes in our operations
- Develop energy efficiencies with further help from renewable energy sources.
HELICAT SUSTAINABILITY FUND
HeliCat Canada’s Sustainability Fund provides grant funding to support important and pertinent research projects that enable the helicat sector to continually improve its operating practices according to the following identified themes:
- Wildlife & Habitat Conservation
- Climate Change Impacts
- Sustainability Initiatives
- Indigenous Relations, Reconciliation, and Indigenous Capacity Building
- Avalanche & Safety
The HeliCat Canada Sustainability Fund is an initiative funded by operators and guests alike. HeliCat Canada guests participate in the fund by contributing $5.00 per ski day. Every dollar collected goes directly to this fund. In addition to the contribution made by guests, all HeliCat Canada operators also contribute a per-ski-day levy to maximize total guest and operator contribution. Helicat Canada expects to fund over $300,000 of projects in the 2024 year.
Our goal is to support the generation of ethical, valid, independent and evidence-based information and knowledge related to environmental conservation and sustainability. The Sustainability Fund is intended to support our partners, including Indigenous Communities, First Nations, tribal governments and organizations, as well as federal, provincial and municipal governments, by funding research projects that will inform future decisions that impact best operating practices and tenure security for our sector.
The HeliCat Canada Sustainability Fund is independently managed by a volunteer Fund Management Committee that solicits and reviews proposals, makes funding decisions, and tracks project success. The Committee manages projects from conception to completion, including the proposal, award, and evaluation phases.
FUND MANAGEMENT - COMMITTEE MEMBERSHIP
The Fund Management Committee consists of the following members:
- Lead technical reviewer
- Regional Tourism Association member
- Indigenous researcher with lived and scholarly perspectives and experience
- Academic faculty
- Heliskiing operator representative
- Snowcat skiing operator representative
- HeliCat Canada Executive Director
- The HCC Executive Administrator provides support for the work of the WER Fund Management Committee as needed.
LIVE LOCAL, SOURCE LOCAL
One of the things we strive for here at Keefer Lake is our dedication to sourcing local. We consider ourselves beyond fortunate to live among such abundance of hand-crafted and artisanal goods! It’s a commitment we hold close to our hearts – many of us are locals ourselves, so we do our best at supporting our own as well as neighbouring local economies whenever we can. From the duvets that keep you warm at night to the shampoo and body wash that are in the showers - up and down the Okanagan Valley and Kootenays, we are constantly looking to source within our cherished communities.