This map superimposes the planned solar facility on a Google Maps time warp showing the greatest extent of disturbed mine lands west of Boundary Dam Reservoir. The planned interconnect switching station, taking a whole section of land, would be to the west of the solar facility. This map is roughly a year old, and there may have been changes since then. Map by Brian Zinchuk

Ocean Man First Nation partners in large solar project

SaskPower has selected Iyuhána Solar LP (Iyuhána Solar) to construct and operate Saskatchewan’s largest solar facility to date in the Estevan area.

“With a total generating capacity of 100 megawatts (MW), this emissions-free solar facility will produce enough power for the equivalent of approximately 25,000 homes,” SaskPower said.  For baseload power, SaskPower usually uses 1,000 homes per megawatt when speaking about baseload generation capacity. The difference is a reflection of the intermittency of solar power.

“Construction is scheduled to begin in 2025 and the facility is expected to come online as early as December 2026,” SaskPower said in a release on Jan. 22.

The project is the first of three major projects planned for the general area west of Boundary Dam Power Station.

SaskPower had previously indicated the location for the new solar facility will be on private land purchased by SaskPower about six kilometres southwest of the Boundary Dam Power Station. That land will be leased to the solar facility.

But SaskPower is not short for land in the area. SaskPower has 18 quarters of undisturbed land immediately adjacent to the solar site, literally across a dirt road to the south. That land is reserved for coal mining. However, there hasn’t been a dragline on the west side of Boundary Dam Reservoir since approximately 2003, according to Google Earth. So if the coal-designated land was to be opened up for mining, a dragline would have to be walked around the south end of Boundary Dam Reservoir, across Long Creek, and then north into position. Alternatively, a dragline would have to be disassembled and reassembled, which is highly unlikely.

Since all conventional coal production has been mandated to stop by 2030, five years, 11 months and eight days from now, the probability of this reserved coal land being mined is slim, at best, while there are ample coal lands immediately adjacent to the current mining areas south and east of Estevan.

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Roughly five kilometres to the west of the planned solar facility is the intended location for a major transmission line switchyard which will be where a new, much larger interconnect is planned to be built, connecting the SaskPower grid to the Southwest Power Pool. And roughly 15 to 20 kilometres to the north, on the north side of Rafferty Reservoir, SaskPower is expected to build its proposed first small modular nuclear reactor.

“This new solar facility will play an important role in our path to net-zero by 2050 or sooner,” said Rupen Pandya, SaskPower president and CEO. “We are proud of our ongoing collaboration with Indigenous Peoples and the critical role they are playing in the successful expansion of renewable energy in our province.”

A partnership between Greenwood Sustainable Infrastructure, Saturn Power and Ocean Man First Nation, Iyuhána Solar, will permit, finance, construct, own, maintain and operate this facility and sell power generated to SaskPower through a 25-year power purchase agreement.

This announcement follows the model SaskPower is now using for wind and solar development. SaskPower does not build, own or operate the facility. It buys the power through a negotiated power purchase agreement (PPA). Any successful bids must have an Indigenous ownership component. Last summer the most recent major wind facility, under construction near Kipling, is being done in conjunction with Cowessess First Nation.

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“Iyuhána Solar is honoured to be entrusted with this transformative opportunity in Saskatchewan. We are looking forward to building and operating this monumental renewable energy project and supporting the clean energy industry in Canada,” said Mazen Turk, director, Iyuhána Solar LP and CEO of Greenwood Sustainable Infrastructure (GSI). “This success is the result of a strong, collaborative partnership with Ocean Man First Nation along with the determination of many team members, helping to ensure that the Iyuhána Solar Project was selected to support changing the landscape of renewable energy in Saskatchewan and Canada for generations to come.”

“Our partnership with GSI and SaskPower will bring great opportunities for Ocean Man First Nation, including employment and revenue that will provide stability and sustainability for our Band,” said Chief Connie Big Eagle, Ocean Man First Nation. “We are proud that this project, which is able to generate clean power, will be known as Iyuhána Solar, which, in Nakotah translates to ‘everyone’ or ‘all of us.’ This is derived from our Nakotah belief that everyone and everything is related and therefore we must care for each other.”

A lot more to come

SaskPower noted it plans to add at least 3,000 MW of wind and solar generation to the system by 2035. This was part of an equivalency agreement with the federal government to allow an extension of coal-fired power generation, according to Pandya, in September. That additional wind and solar will not, however, be built, owned or operated by SaskPower, as noted above.

In 2022, SaskPower added two new wind facilities to the grid totalling 375 MW of wind power; the Golden South Wind Facility near Assiniboia and the Blue Hill Wind Facility near Herbert. The 200 MW Bekevar Wind Facility is also under construction southeast of Kipling, Saskatchewan. Is it expected to be complete by end of 2024. SaskPower also announced plans for 600 MW of new renewable generation in south-central Saskatchewan, expected to be online in 2027.

 

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