SaskPower Moves Forward in Enhancement of Power Supply

On May 31st, SaskPower announced it is moving into the detailed site analysis phase for the potential location of the province's first small modular reactor (SMR) nuclear power plant in the Estevan area. Detailed site assessments will be conducted leading up to the site selection expected in 2025, which will allow the necessary site-specific regulatory processes to move forward.

Although the selection of a site near Estevan was only announced this spring, SaskPower was in discussions with landowners in December 2023 to secure land options for the SMR power plant. Options for 320 acres of land are secured for sites at the Rafferty and Boundary Reservoirs close to Estevan. A site of that size could house up to two GE-Hitachi BWRX-300 reactors and the cooling water infrastructure. The site assessments will include the collection of groundwater and geotechnical data and conducting land and water analyses. The data collected will identify natural environments needing protection in sensitive lands and habitats at or near both sites.

Several years of project development, licensing and regulatory work are required to support a final investment decision in 2029. SaskPower is preparing to submit its Initial Project Description to the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada in early 2025. This submission will formally start the Impact Assessment process to obtain a licence to prepare a site, a construction licence, and an operating licence. With these approvals in place, and a decision to proceed has been approved, SaskPower intends to build the first 315-megawatt SMR by 2034, with the potential for another shortly after at the same facility.

Estevan is home to two of Saskatchewan’s three coal-fired power plants, the Boundary Dam Power Station and the Shand Power Station, with over 800 megawatts of electricity capacity, but only one unit at Boundary Dam is equipped with carbon capture and storage technology. MLA for Estevan, Lori Carr, said that having a trained and knowledgeable workforce that can transition and train while still working in the existing facilities, would factor into the project's success.

“In addition to the technical suitability of the sites, the Estevan region offers many benefits, including proximity to the City of Estevan to access existing services, a skilled workforce, accommodations and emergency services, as well as infrastructure, roads and transmission,” said SaskPower president and CEO Rupen Pandya.

According to World Nuclear News, the Elbow area remains an attractive option. SaskPower plans to continue exploring the area for future nuclear development by seeking land options and working with rightsholders, Indigenous and municipal leaders, and community members.

SaskPower is implementing multiple strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Bekevar Wind Facility, near Kipling, is currently the largest such project of its kind in Saskatchewan. It will provide 200 MW of renewable wind energy to the province, estimated to power around 100,000 Saskatchewan homes. Joint owners on the project are Cowessess First Nation, who have a 17 percent equity in the Bekevar project. The total size for the project is an estimated 20,000 acres of private land north of Moose Mountain Provincial Park in the RMs of Kingsley and Hazelwood and on Cowessess First Nation reserve land. Along with the turbines going up, 18 km of new road is also included in the construction process - 3.5 km of that becoming municipal roads. Connecting the turbines will be 106 km of medium voltage underground cables. Fifteen turbines were delivered in 2023, and another twenty-one will be onsite by the end of June with installation complete by the end of August. During peak construction, Michael Capaldo, vice-president of Construction and Engineering with Innagreen Investments, estimates 250 people will be working on the construction site, with the two-year build anticipating completion this November.

In the long term, SaskPower plans to add 3,000 MW of power generation through wind and solar to the Saskatchewan grid by 2035. Southern Saskatchewan boasts some of the highest solar-photovoltaic potentials in Canada, with Regina and Saskatoon receiving an average of 7.15 and 7.10 kilowatt-hours per square meter (kWh/m2), respectively. Located near Swift Current, the 10 MW Highfield Solar Project by SaskPower and Saturn Power is Saskatchewan’s first utility-scale solar generation project. The project began operating in October 2021 and can generate enough renewable power for about 2,500 homes. Saturn Power, an independent power producer based in Ontario, built the Highfield Solar facility. They own and operate the facility while selling SaskPower the power produced. Doug Wagner, President and CEO, of Saturn Power said, “Through the hard work of our team and the collaborative relationships built and fostered with both SaskPower and miEnergy, we were able to build a project that will serve as a foundation in Saskatchewan’s efforts to develop a more sustainable and renewable power supply for decades to come.”

SaskPower announced in January 2024 that a contractor backed by First Nations will build and operate a solar facility near Estevan, which when ready will become the largest generator of its kind in Saskatchewan. Construction is set to start in 2025, with the facility ready to produce electricity as early as 2026. This project is being made in partnership with Greenwood Sustainable Infrastructure, Saturn Power and Ocean Man First Nation. Iyuhána Solar LP will create a facility capable of generating 100 megawatts, which SaskPower says will be enough to power 25,000 homes.

SaskPower will release its updated long-term supply plan this summer, aiming to meet greenhouse gas emission targets while addressing the needs and expectations of its customers. The draft summary is currently available for public review and feedback. It outlines decisions confirmed up to 2030 for expanding renewable energy from wind, solar, and natural gas. A downloadable version is available on SaskPower’s website. (https://engage.saskpower.com/hub-page/future-supply-plan-2030-and-beyond)

Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wakaw Recorder