Estevan considered for solar power

SaskPower is looking to add solar power to its electrical generation fleet, and Estevan is one of three sites they are considering. 

The Crown corporation held an open house at the Saskatchewan Energy Training Institute on Oct. 20. Representatives from SaskPower were on hand to explain how the solar power station would work and why Estevan was being considered. 

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Tim Schuster, the director of independent power producer development for SaskPower, told the Mercury that they are considering Estevan because they are looking for a location that would keep costs at a reasonable rate. It would also have optimal solar intensity, good interconnection availability, favourable community support and a location that would be environmentally safe.

They are also looking at Morse and Rush Lake, both in southwest Saskatchewan, as possible locations. 

“The interconnection opportunities are good, and there are locations we can look at to satisfy the criteria for the project,” said Schuster. 

All three locations have available infrastructure and capacity, and interconnection availability. In Estevan’s case, there is a substation that SaskPower can access for a solar power site, and they wouldn’t have to build much new infrastructure. 

Southern Saskatchewan is an area that would be a good site for solar power projects, he said. In fact, according to information supplied by SaskPower, it is one of the best locations in the country, along with southern Alberta and southwestern Manitoba. 

SaskPower’s proposal calls for an initial 10 megawatts to be constructed on about 70 acres of land. Another 10 megawatts would be added at some point in the future. 

“What we’re going to do is buy a full-quarter section, so there’s lots of room to put that project on that land, and then it can be expanded again in the future if we want to,” said Schuster. 

It’s expected the plant would employ a few people. 

The total projected cost for the 10-megawatt solar plant is $25 million to $30 million. 

There would also be 20 megawatts of solar power through a partnership with the First Nations Power Authority, and 20 more through community-based projects of varying size. The 60 megawatts would be added to the provincial power grid by 2021.

Several locations in the Estevan area are being considered as potential sites for a solar power project.

One is close to the Boundary Dam Power Station, but the proximity to Boundary Dam or the Shand Power Station would not be a pre-requisite for the project. 

SaskPower made a presentation to the Rural Municipality of Estevan recently, and Schuster said it was well-received. 

The other communities they have visited have also been receptive to a solar power station. 

“We listened to their concerns, and we listened to their ideas and suggestions about where it would be good to put a solar project,” said Schuster. 

Schuster is optimistic the site will be selected before the end of December. 

A request for qualifications has already been issued for companies to submit their bids. 

“In the competition, independent power producers and developers will submit their proposals for the project, and then through the competition, we’ll choose the developer that wins the project, and they will design, construct and operate the solar farm through the life of the project,” said Schuster. 

While SaskPower is looking at Estevan as a potential location for the solar power project, Schuster stressed the addition of solar power locally wouldn’t affect the future of Boundary Dam and Shand, nor would it impact their decision on whether to proceed with future carbon capture and storage projects. 

“SaskPower has done fantastic work with the carbon capture project on Unit 3 at Boundary Dam, so we’re looking at the potential for Units 4, 5 and 6 at Boundary Dam,” said Schuster. 

He noted SaskPower has already made considerable progress with its plans for a solar power station. They looked across southern Saskatchewan before settling on Estevan, Morse and Rush Lake as potential locations. And they have had open houses in the potential communities. 

This would be the first utility-scale solar power project for SaskPower. The Crown corporation has a plan to have renewables account for 50 per cent of its power generation by 2030, and solar power would play a role. They also want to reduce emissions from power production by 40 per cent from 2005 levels before 2030. 

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