Contact Us!

Fighting Climate Change in the Far North

After the generator backfired and burned down his family’s large cabin, Devon Felker jumped at the chance to install solar panels on their newly rebuilt cabin in Hay River, NWT.

Devon Felker at far left, with his mother, and the Solar Professionals trainees who installed solar panels on Devon’s cabin


Consisting of two days of classroom teaching, followed by five days of installation of solar panels on his cabin with a certified electrician and three Solar Professional Trainees, the Iron & Earth and Gonezu Energy solar power program has been a game-changer. “It’s been awesome having clean solar power instead of having to fire up the generator all the time,” he says. “It's great that we don't have to start the generator just to use the microwave, keep the fridge cool, or charge up the phone.”

“We enjoyed going out to the cabin, but it was super expensive, having to spend $150+ on gas every weekend, not to mention all the work involved in hauling in gas for the generator,” says Devon. “Solar power has really lifted the workload. Now, we don’t have to worry about the generator backfiring, hauling in expensive gas to the cabin or dealing with all the noise and smell the generator makes.”

Devon greatly enjoyed the Iron & Earth program and found the instructor had a very clear way of teaching how solar panels work, the different ways to use the panels, how to use the multi-meter and the number of solar panels needed to power different appliances. When it came time to install the panels on his cabin, Devon assisted every step of the way, including helping jackhammer through six feet of hard rock to install the ground wire to his cabin.

The cabin holds great significance for his family as a place to gather together, hunt, recreate and spend time on the land. Winters have usually been his favourite time to visit, when there’s fresh snow to enjoy winter campfires and snowmobiling, however, he says that diminishing snow levels have impacted his ability to snowmobile in recent years.

That isn’t the only climate-related change he’s witnessed in the rapidly warming north. “We used to get a decent amount of rain about ten years ago, but now it only rains three times a year,” he says. The once-vibrant Hay River, which traverses the town, now lies still with low water levels making it impossible to launch boats there. A remote-control plane enthusiast, Devon recently captured the unprecedented low-water levels on nearby Alexandra Falls that provide stark contrast with a 2016 video of the once-thundering falls.

Repeat floods, like the one that devastated parts of the town last year, were followed by this summer’s powerful wildfires. At one point, the wildfire jumped the highway and threatened the town, as well as coming only one kilometre from his cabin. Remarkably, his cabin with its new solar panels was the only one spared, while all the neighbouring cabins sadly burned down.

As Housing Coordinator for the West Point First Nation - a member of the Dehcho First Nations -  Devon is helping secure funding to repair and retrofit houses in the community to make them more energy efficient. His band is partnering with Arctic Energy Alliance to get rebates on wood stoves, siding, energy-efficient appliances, and installation. Their collaboration goes back to 2018, when the Alliance trained Devon and other community members on installing winterizing kits in Dehcho homes, to help conserve energy.

Devon believes that people are moving away from polluting generators and towards energy efficiency in order to save money as well as to fight climate change. Towards that end, he recently joined the local youth climate change council. While the summer’s wildfires put their plans on hold, the respite brought on by the change of season has seen meetings resume. The community is now determined to find ways to reduce their carbon emissions. “There are always new ways to save energy and use clean energy, so it’s interesting to see what’s out there and what’s coming next,” Devon says.


For more information about Iron & Earth’s training opportunities in clean energy, contact us at or 778-771-0852. To search for renewable energy jobs or a career Mentor, visit our Climate Career Portal.

Iron & Earth’s training programs are funded in part by the Government of Canada's Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program.

The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.

Next post: New Year, New Career!

Iron & Earth is committed to partnering with Indigenous workers to empower their communities to become self-sufficient in training programs, clean energy transition projects, and employment opportunities to combat environmental racism. It falls to all of us to continue the work of healing and reconciliation in our communities and our organizations. Our relationship with the land and the people who live here shapes who we are. It is in the spirit of reconciliation and honouring the past that we recognize treaties and agreements wherever they are and wherever we work.

We also acknowledge all peoples who live, work, and play on this land, and who honour and celebrate this territory.
As individuals and teams we may make mistakes along the way, but we are dedicated to growth, openness, compassion, and forgiveness. These principles in our work are essential to building successful and healthy relationships with individuals, communities, organizations, and governments.

We look forward to building a path to lead us to a better relationship with Indigenous nations and the environment around us based on peace, friendship, and respect.