Pesâkâstêw Solar facility at Weyburn, which can be seen on the horizon. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

WEYBURN – On June 19 SaskPower officially opened its second grid-scale solar power facility just southwest of Weyburn.

The Pesâkâstêw Solar Facility is has a nameplate capacity of 10 megawatts. SaskPower expects roughly 25 per cent of nameplate output for solar facilities like this one.

That’s reflected in the company’s statement that it “will provide enough clean, renewable power for approximately 2,500 Saskatchewan homes.” A press release the following day for new natural gas-fired generation noted that 46 megawatt gas-fired generators were expected to supply the power equivalent of 46,000 homes each.

The addition of the new facility brings Saskatchewan to a total of 70 megawatts of solar power connected to the grid, with two additional 10 megawatts projects in the Regina area, Awasis and Foxtail Grove, also currently underway.

Don Morgan, Minister of Crown Investments Corp., which includes SaskPower, said, “It’s been a long project. It was delayed through the pandemic. But the partners did a remarkable job. We’re really happy that it’s fun ahead. As you’re aware, this is now moves us to about a third of our energy coming from renewables, and I’m really pleased to see that it’s done it with First Nations partnership.”

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He noted there were jobs created during its construction, “But with solar, you don’t need a lot of maintenance or a lot of attention after its running.”

“When the sun shines, the dollars come in,” Morgan said.

He said the First Nations Power Authority is a really competent group which provides the leadership development capacity. He expects the model to be used across the nation.

Pesâkâstêw Solar facility at Weyburn. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

 

“Our goal is to reduce SaskPower’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 50 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, and to achieve net zero emissions by 2050,” said Rupen Pandya, SaskPower President & CEO. “Pesâkâstêw is contributing to our GHG reduction efforts, while providing revenue opportunities for First Nations communities. These partnerships will continue to be valuable as we add more wind and solar to our generation mix.”

He told reporters, “The energy system in Saskatchewan is under is going through a profound transition and will need to move to net zero emissions by 2050, if not earlier. And SaskPower, being a partner along with First Nations, in the development of clean solar power is a critical part of our future.”

Pesâkâstêw Solar Limited Partnership, a partnership between George Gordon Development Ltd., the economic development arm of George Gordon First Nation, Red Dog Holdings Ltd., the economic development corporation of Star Blanket Cree Nation and Natural Forces, a private independent power producer, owns and operates the facility and will sell the power generated to SaskPower as part of a 20-year power purchase agreement.

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“Part of our renewable strategy has about 3,000 megawatts of renewable, primarily wind and solar over a number of years. And so, this project is our first utility-scale project, obviously, with First Nations in Saskatchewan, and so it’s really important to start that process. Certainly, going out further we’ll be soliciting more partnerships,” Pandya said.

“It’s George Gordon Developments’ vision to be a leader in First Nation business development as a partner while working to improve the quality of life for our first nation members,” said Glen Pratt, CEO of George Gordon Development Ltd. “With the Pesâkâstêw Solar Project, we are delighted to have been able to lead our nation by improving life sustainability by providing renewable power; the ability to create opportunities to educate and employ our First Nation members; engaging in reconciliation by building lasting relationships with large corporations, federal and provincial government bodies; and lastly, creating unity within our community by working in partnership with a neighbouring Nation, Star Blanket First Nation.”

Looking southeast at the Pesâkâstêw Solar facility at Weyburn. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

 

“We are a proud Nation working with our amazing partners to create this long-term, sustainable renewable energy venture,” said Star Blanket Cree Nation Chief Michael Starr. “This amazing renewable energy journey will benefit, not only our Nation but all Nations including the Indigenous peoples of this land, far into the future. It is one more step to true economic reconciliation.”

“The success of Star Blanket and George Gordon First Nation with Pesâkâstêw Solar Project has proven that First Nation-led projects in partnership with industry are a great solution for adding renewables to the Saskatchewan grid,” said Robert Apold, Natural Forces Principal. “The initiative encountered several challenges, but teamwork and belief in partnerships prevailed.”

The Pesâkâstêw and Awasis solar projects were selected by First Nations Power Authority (FNPA) as part of the First Nations Opportunity Agreement in 2019. The agreement is estimated to be worth $40 million over the course of 20 years. The project was funded in part by the Government of Canada.

Comparison to Alberta

SaskPower does not publish the output of its individual power facilities, but Alberta does. At 3:27 p.m. on July 20, Alberta was getting 730 megawatts of power out of its installed based of 977 megawatts, or 74.5 per cent capacity. That was across 20 grid-scale solar facilities across Alberta. Most of its solar facilities were producing at or close to maximum capacity, except for Conrad 1, which appeared to be offline, and Travers, whose 465 megawatts do not appear to be fully operational even though they are listed as connected to the grid. (Travers, alone, accounted for nearly all the shortfall from the 977 megawatts maximum.)

At the same time, Alberta’s 2,269 megawatts of wind capacity wad putting out just 426 megawatts, or 18.8 per cent.

However, at noon on June 24, the week with the longest days of year, Alberta’s grid was receiving just 126 megawatts, or 13.5 per cent of its 977 megawatts of solar nameplate capacity. And, of course, year round, solar produces zero power to the grid when the sun goes down at night.

 

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Two days ago, Saskatchewan set another summer power consumption record. Today, Alberta’s wind is currently putting out 1.2% of its capacity

David Yager: As the world pivots on climate policy, Canada keeps pitching last year’s plan