The Fort Folly First Nation in New Brunswick is joining a growing list of Mi’kmaq communities that are installing renewable energy projects to power their daily activities.

Seven Mi’kmaq communities in New Brunswick, including Fort Folly near Dorchester, N.B., are installing 17 solar panel projects on schools, daycares, band offices and other buildings. There are also wind power projects under way in several Indigenous communities.

Fort Folly Chief Rebecca Knockwood told CBC that the project is an investment in the future.

“As First Nations people, we’re protectors and keepers of the lands and of the environment. And we want to try and reduce our carbon footprint,” she said.

In Fort Folly, solar arrays are being installed on four buildings: on the roofs of the band office and community centre, and on ground mounts by the former bingo hall and the building that houses the community’s fisheries habitat recovery program.

Once complete, the buildings will be carbon neutral.

Natural Forces, a Halifax-based renewable energy company, approached communities interested in submitting proposals under the federal government’s low carbon economy fund.

The grant helps cover the upfront cost of the installation.

The solar panels will take five years to pay off before generating about $17,000 per year. That extra revenue is being considered to offset costs for employment and youth programs.

NB Power’s net metering program allows individuals and organizations to install up to 100 kilowatts of solar on a building. The owner receives credits for days where surplus electricity is produced, which offset the days with limited sunlight.

Chief Knockwood said the next step for the small community may be wind turbines.