SaskPower held an open house on March 23-24 in Estevan. about 50 people attended the first day, and 15 the second.

 

ESTEVAN – For two days, SaskPower held open house session in Estevan about future projects planned for the area, including a 650 megawatt bi-directional power line connecting to the United States, possibly two nuclear reactors, and a 100 megawatt solar farm. SaskPower officials also spoke of an additional 3,000 megawatts of wind and solar power to be constructed by 2035. (Watch for a detailed story on Wednesday)

The next day, on March 25, SaskPower’s “Where Your Power Comes From” web page listed just how much power was produced by wind. And it wasn’t much.

Despite having 617 megawatts of grid-scale wind power generation, the 24-hour average for the day was 22 megawatts, or 3.6 per cent of nameplate capacity. And as that was an average, that means there were times when it was lower than 22 megawatts total. That 22 megawatts was 0.7 per cent of total power generation for the day.

Total power produced averaged 3141 megawatts, with a system demand of 2,988 megawatts and exports to Alberta of 153 megawatts.

If every single power plant is producing at full capacity, the sun is shining, the wind is blowing, dams are full and nothing is down for maintenance, SaskPower can produced a theoretical maximum of 5,436 megawatts of power generation. At 617 megawatts, grid-scale wind accounts for 11.4 per cent of nameplate capacity. But its output on March 25, at 22 megawatts, was 0.4 per cent of the total maximum theoretical capacity of Saskatchewan.

On March 25, Saskatchewan’s limited hydro capacity produced 11 times the power of wind, contributing 242 megawatts of power on average, or 7.8 per cent.

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The 30 megawatts of grid-scale solar actually had a good day, producing 10 megawatts averaged over the day. As it’s the same week as the equinox, the theoretical maximum number of hours solar could have produced power is half the day, and that’s not counting the ramp up and ramp down as the sun rises and sets. As a percentage of total power, solar was negligible.

Natural gas produced 1,648 megawatts, or 52 per cent of Saskatchewan’s total generation. Coal produced 1,079 megawatts, or 34 per cent. Combined, natural gas and coal produced 86 per cent of power generation. (The proposed Clean Electricity Standard would have Canadian power generation eliminate fossil fuel power generation except in exceptional circumstances.)

“Other,” which includes small power producers, heat recovery, biomass and purchases from Manitoba Hydro totalled 140 megawatts, or 4.4 per cent.

Power generation in Saskatchewan, as a daily average on Saturday, March 23, 2023. SaskPower

 

Asked if SaskPower was going to be building 3,000 megawatts of natural gas power to back up the solar and wind, SaskPower spokesperson Scott McGregor said they are always working on baseload capacity. But when asked about peaking power to backfill on days (nights) when there is no wind and no solar, McGregor said, “That’s where the base load, like comes into backup the renewable sources.”

“Our plans are, in terms of the renewable portfolio, by 2035, we plan to have built up to 3,000 megawatts of new wind and solar. In terms of the baseload, increase in generative capacity as well,  that’s not a number that I have right now, because that is something that has always been worked on and developed. It’s a much more significant thing to build a baseload generating station.

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“For the purposes of this conversation, I’m grouping baseload and peaking as the same, because they’re SaskPower owned facilities that have the capability of baseload generation. So you have a natural gas plant, you have a hydro station. Those are all, for this conversation, fall under the envelope of baseload. It’s power source that are always available, that doesn’t rely on ideal environmental conditions, like wind and solar.

SaskPower is planning on building a 370 megawatt combined cycle natural gas facility at Lanigan, as well as up to four small modular nuclear reactors at 300 megawatts each. Combined, those nuclear power plants would roughly replace the existing coal-fired generating facilities.

Critical Minerals Strategy reference

On March 27, the Government of Saskatchewan released its Critical Mineral Strategy. It directly referenced SaskPower’s plans to dramatically increase the amount of solar and wind generation by 2030 (the soonest a nuclear power plant is expected to be online is in the 2034-35 time frame) The strategy document noted, “SaskPower is on track to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from electrical power generation by at least 50 per cent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels, while the amount of non-emitting electricity in Saskatchewan’s generation mix will increase from approximately 35 per cent today to between 40 and 50 per cent.”

It also said, “A significant component of Saskatchewan’s electrical production moving forward beyond 2030 may be produced by nuclear power.

“Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Ontario and Alberta have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to collaborate on the advancement of small modular reactors as a clean energy option to address climate change and regional energy demands, while supporting economic growth and innovation.

“In May 2022, the SRC and Westinghouse Electric Canada signed a MOU to advance very small modular reactors, also known as micro-reactors, in Saskatchewan.”

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Verbatim: Joint statement from President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, with plenty to say on energy