Construction of a 3.5-megawatt wind turbine in Inuvik, N.W.T., has been delayed, and the Northwest Territories Power Corporation (NTPC) now doesn't expect it to generate electricity until sometime this summer.
Construction of the wind turbine began in January of last year. It was expected to be up and running by early 2023.
The project is experiencing setbacks on a couple fronts, confirmed NTPC spokesperson Doug Prendergast.
Construction on the access road is on hold while NT Energy — a sister company of NTPC — "works with the lead contractor and other firms involved in this aspect of the project to identify the path forward to complete the road," Prendergast wrote in an email.
He didn't say what was causing the road construction delay.
Additionally, said Prendergast, a delivery of steel needed to support the turbine was expected in early September, but didn't arrive until late October.
This meant there wasn't time for crews to erect the turbine before winter set in, and the crane they're using isn't safe in cold weather.
Inuvik uses more diesel to make electricity than any other Northwest Territories community, according to the territory's 2030 Energy Strategy.
The Inuvik Wind Project is supposed to reduce Inuvik's diesel use by 30 per cent, or three million litres, annually.
Once built, the turbine will stand 150 metres tall with blades measuring 67 metres. The project also involves installing a battery storage system, and building a distribution line and a 6.25-kilometre access road.
Prendergast said the road isn't necessary to get materials to the site right now, but it will be needed in the future.
'Delay, after delay, after delay'
Inuvik Twin Lakes MLA Lesa Semmler expressed frustration over the project's postponement.
"The road is not done, the culverts aren't in, the wind turbine is sitting down at the MTS shipping yard ... They've got a crane up on the hill that couldn't operate in the winter so they couldn't do anything more, but it's sitting there being rented, as they drove it up from the South," she said.
"It's just delay, after delay, after delay."
The project was initially supposed to cost around $40 million, with the federal government covering three-quarters of it and the territory paying the rest.
The cost estimate has since ballooned to between $60 and $70 million.
Now, Semmler worries the delays will push the cost even higher.
"Is it going to end up $100 million project for one wind turbine?" she said.
"Are we going to have to eat this cost as residents? It's just one thing after another with this wind turbine ... Is it really going to make a bang for its buck?"
Semmler said the turbine, once built, will offset the community's diesel costs, but residents won't necessarily see this reflected in their electricity bills.
"It's not going to be passed on to the residents or to anybody. It's just cost savings to the Power Corp.," she said.
Rate impact not yet determined
According to Prendergast, it's too early to say how the turbine will affect what customers pay for electricity.
"The impact on customer electricity rates will be determined by the NWT Public Utilities Board following a future general rate application," he said.
"There will be lower consumption of diesel when the turbine begins generating electricity, but the cost savings will be dependent on the price of diesel in the future."
He added that fuel prices are only one factor the board considers when setting electricity rates. Inflation and the cost of supplies and services also play a role.
On Monday, Darren Campbell, a spokesperson for the territorial Infrastructure Department, said the territorial government is exploring funding options with the federal government in light of the cost escalations.
ONEC Construction Inc. and Northland Builders Ltd. have the contract for the access road, said Prendergast.
Representative for ONEC Construction Inc. and Northland Builders couldn't immediately be reached for an interview.
Under the 2030 Energy Strategy, N.W.T. government aims cut greenhouse gas emissions from electricity by 25 per cent.
Inuvik's wind turbine is projected to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 6,000 tonnes a year.