This is the layout of the proposed Outlaw Trail wind facility, northeast of Coronach. BluEarth Renewables

REGINA – The provincial government has approved 700 megawatts (MW) of new renewable generation to be added in south-central Saskatchewan by 2027. Once built, that will effectively double SaskPower’s current build-out of wind and solar production.

This new capacity will include 400 megawatts of new wind generation and 300 megawatts of new solar generation for the region. More detail regarding procurement competitions and specific project locations will be available in the coming months, SaskPower said.

Currently Saskatchewan has 617 megawatts of grid-scale wind and 20 megawatts of grid-scale solar power.

The Crown corporation is currently working on developing a 100 megawatt solar facility about 10 kilometres southwest of the Boundary Dam Power Station. The project will be owned and operated by an independent power producer, the model SaskPower has used for nearly all of its wind and solar development in recent years.

While not explicitly part of this announcement, says BluEarth Renewables says they are the “proud developers of the Outlaw Trail Wind Project, a 230 megawatt wind project proposed on both private and Crown lands near Big Beaver, Saskatchewan.” That’s within the geographic area SaskPower mentioned in its announcement.

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The project location, with its up to 51 turbines, is approximately 20 kilometres east of Coronach, which is expected to lose its principal industry, coal-fired power production, by the end of this decade.

The website notes, “The Outlaw Trail Wind Project will benefit the local economy with an average of 120 full-time workers during peak construction of the project. In addition, the project will employ six full-time wind technicians and one full-time site supervisor. The project will also provide indirect revenue to the local municipality in the form of local services and supplies, and will pay municipal taxes to the rural community with an estimated annual tax revenue of $800,000 between (rural municipalities of) Hart Butte and Happy Valley. Wind projects provide stable income to local farmers and landowners from land lease agreements and allow farming up to the base of the turbine gravel pad, leading to increased diversification of local landowner income.”

“Building more generation facilities to take advantage of Saskatchewan’s abundant wind and sun will be good for emission reductions and for the provincial economy,” said Don Morgan, Minister Responsible for SaskPower. “We are looking forward to this significant next step for electricity generation for the region and province.”

SaskPower is on track to reduce its CO2 emissions by at least 50 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. In the process, 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, the press release said.

But that’s nameplate capacity – the theoretical amount facilities can put out in ideal conditions. The reality has proven to be far from that. Wind and solar typically produce nothing near nameplate capacity, and coal and natural gas combined make up 65 to 84 per cent of Saskatchewan power production on any given day.

Wind turbines near Assiniboia. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

 

Where your power comes from

Since Sept 21, SaskPower has been posting daily average power production of its generation sources on a web page called Where Your Power Comes From. The information isn’t nearly as detailed as the Alberta Electric System Operator’s minute-by-minute data, but it is a dramatic improvement over what was offered before, which was effectively zero. SaskPower’s data is also delayed two days, so as to not impede its bargaining power on the electricity market.

On Nov. 5, the most recent day available, SaskPower’s 617 megawatts of wind power produced an average 455 megawatts, or 15 per cent of total generation over the day. The 20 megawatts of grid-scale solar power produced an average of 1 megawatt, or negligible contribution to overall production. “Other”, which includes small power producers, some of which are solar, but also pipeline heat recovery and Manitoba Hydro purchases, generated 112 megawatts, or 4 per cent of total production.

Natural gas put out 1,116 megawatts, or 38 per cent of total generation. Coal put out 1,009 megawatts, or 34 per cent, on Nov. 5.

But on Oct. 3, SaskPower’s wind was putting out one tenth of what it did on Nov. 5. On Oct. 3, wind accounted for a daily average of 45 megawatts, or 2 per cent of total generation. That was 7.2 per cent of total wind capacity. That’s also an average, not the lowest point of the day.

SaskPower’s power production on Monday, Oct. 3. Each number is the average throughout the day, not the highs or lows. SaskPower

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Solar was 6 megawatts on Oct. 3, a negligible contribution. “Other” was 94 megawatts, or 3 per cent. On that day, coal and solar were each providing 42 per cent of the province’s power, at 1,158 and 1,161 megawatts, respectively.

Alberta comparison

Saskatchewan is several years behind Alberta in its development of wind and solar generation. That province keeps adding both solar and wind facilities to the grid at a rapid clip, having more than doubled the number of solar facilities in less than a year.

The hour the SaskPower press release came out on Nov. 7,  – 10 a.m. in Saskatchewan, and 9 a.m, in Alberta, Alberta’s 1,138 megawatts of solar production was adding 63 megawatts to that province’s grid. Wind was doing better, however, at 1,015 megawatts out of 2,880. By 10:45 Alberta time, solar was contributing 226 megawatts and wind 1,056. And at 1:05 p.m., solar was providing 184 megawatts out of 1,138 capacity, or 16.1 per cent during the peak solar portion of the day. Twelve of those solar facilities were contributing zero power to the grid.

MC is maximum capacity, in megawatts. TNG is total net to the grid, in megawatts. Twelve solar facilities in Alberta were producing exactly zero power, just after noon, on Nov. 7. Alberta Electric System Operator

 

Both the wind and solar total nameplate capacity numbers have increased in recent weeks as that province has added additional facilities, part of a major trend of building out these renewable energy facilities in Alberta. At the beginning of 2022, Alberta had just 13 grid-scale solar facilities and 26 wind facilities. There are now 29 solar facilities in Alberta, and 31 wind facilities of grid scale.

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On Oct. 9, the province had 1,088 megawatts of solar nameplate capacity, and 2,734 megawatts of wind listed by the Alberta Electric System Operator. Cypress 2, at 46 megawatts, and Hilda Wind, at 100 megawatts, are the latest wind additions.

Recent solar additions include Michichi Solar at 25 megawatts, Vulcan at 22 megawatts, Clydesdale 1 at 41 megawatts and Clydesdale 2 at 34 megawatts.

And despite Alberta’s enormous coal remaining coal reserves, that province also took its third-last coal generator off the grid. Genessee Unit 3 is no longer listed as a coal unit, but as “dual fuel.” Genessee Units 1 and 2 are the sole remaining coal-fired power units remaining on the grid. In recent months, Genessee 2 has seen a remarkable increase in its maximum capacity rating in its approaching final days of operation. It had been 400 megawatts, but that changed to 420 megawatts a few months ago. And on Nov. 7, they were running it at 422 megawatts.

Seven former coal units are now listed under “gas-fired steam,” having been converted to natural gas as their fuel source.

Pesâkâstêw Solar facility at Weyburn. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

Building more wind and solar

“Achieving our 2030 and net-zero targets will require SaskPower to add significantly more non-emitting generation in the coming years,” said Tim Eckel, SaskPower Vice-President of Asset Management, Planning and Sustainability. “In total, we plan to add up to 3,000 MW of wind and solar generation by 2035 – a major transformation of our grid and an economic opportunity for businesses and communities provincewide.”

In addition to wind and solar, SaskPower said it is evaluating the full range of generation options to deliver clean, reliable, cost-effective, and sustainable power to customers in the years to come.

On November 4, SaskPower held a panel discussion with the Estevan Chamber of Commerce. There was a lot said, and thus, a lot to write about. Watch for detailed coverage of that event on Pipeline Online in the coming days.

 

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“Our solar capacity is 20 and we were getting 2. You cannot run a province, you cannot run business, you cannot run industry, you cannot run people’s homes on that unreliability”