When generators like this, Boundary Dam Unit 6, are shut down in the next few years, SaskPower is going to need to get its power from somewhere. And it looks like south of the border is going to be a key part of that.

REGINA – One of the largest questions facing Saskatchewan’s economy is where will we be getting our electrical power in the next 10 years? SaskPower is looking down the barrel of the federally-mandated retirement of conventional coal-fired power by the end of 2029, and it’s going to take until at least 2032 to have any sort of nuclear power in place. Even then, that would only be one or two reactors, not nearly enough to replace our coal fleet, let alone meet the increased demand from electric vehicles.

Then there’s the issue of building renewable power like wind and solar, which produce cheap power when they run, but they don’t always run. Alberta’s power grid has shown numerous times over the past eight months that either wind or solar, or both, will on occasion utterly collapse and provide as little as one per cent of their nameplate capacity. At the time of writing at 10:39 a.m. on Aug. 10, Alberta’s power grid was getting just 195 megawatts of wind power from its nameplate capacity of 2,389 megawatts. That’s 8.1 per cent.

And at night, all solar generation drops to zero. So what is the province’s Crown power utility to do?

Part of that question was answered on Aug. 10, with the announcement that SaskPower was signing a 20 year agreement with the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) to expand transmission line capacity between this province and the United States.

The SPP manages the electric grid and wholesale power market for the central United States. With 106 members across 14 states, it is a large and diverse market comprised of over 94,600 MW of installed generation.

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“Access to this large market ensures reliable energy is available to Saskatchewan to support our own generating facilities,” said Rupen Pandya, SaskPower President & CEO, in a release. “This will help to manage the integration of more intermittent renewable power such as wind and solar while keeping costs as low as possible for customers.”

The new line will literally go both ways, allowing for both the import and export of power. Its capacity will be pegged at 650 megawatts, roughly the capacity of either the Poplar River Power Station at Coronach, or Boundary Dam Power Station at Estevan. (Unit 4, which was supposed to retire at the end of last year, is still in operation, meaning Boundary Dam has a capacity of 531 megawatts).

SaskPower spokesperson Joel Cherry noted by phone that this is not a power purchase agreement, but an interconnect agreement.

The location of the new line has not yet been determined. SaskPower has an existing interconnect of 150 megawatts south of Estevan. As coal-fired units are shut down at Coronach and Estevan, that will free up capacity on existing grid infrastructure from either of those locations. A follow up email from Cherry said, “New infrastructure will be required in both Saskatchewan and North Dakota; however, the specific routing and location of the infrastructure will be confirmed as part of the upcoming design phase.” As Boundary Dam is north of North Dakota, and Poplar River is north of Montana, that would indicate the Estevan area is the most likely location for this interconnect.

“The 650 MW of import will represent the total capacity between SaskPower and the SPP, i.e. this is not in addition to the existing 150 MW,” he wrote.

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SaskPower said expanding transmission capacity to the U.S. will also improve reliability in the event of planned or unplanned outages at SaskPower facilities and makes it possible for Saskatchewan to export excess power into the pool, which would create revenue opportunities.

SaskPower will build the necessary transmission facilities in Saskatchewan, with the SPP handling construction required in the United States.

This interconnect is part of a continuing shift to expand our connections to neighbour power grids. Historically, SaskPower was rather isolated, with limited capacity to import or export power through interconnections. Instead, we were largely self-sufficient, depending in large part on coal-fired baseload power production. Currently, SaskPower’s total tie-line capacity in and out of the SPP is 150 MW. Interconnections to the SaskPower grid also currently exist with both Manitoba (290 MW capacity) and Alberta (150 MW capacity). This new line will be more than all the existing interconnects combined.

Alberta has similar interconnects with not only Saskatchewan, but also British Columbia and Montana. According to the Alberta Electric System Operator website, that province routinely draws power from its neighbours on a consistent basis. At the time of writing at 10:32, Aug. 10, Alberta was 593 megawatts from B.C., 179 megawatts from Montana, and 59 megawatts from Saskatchewan.

Gas-fired power station for Lanigan

In addition to expanding its interconnects with its neighbours, SaskPower is looking at a third major natural gas-fired power plant in recent years, following the completion of the Great Plains Power station at Moose Jaw, currently under construction.

That third power station would be a 370 megawatt baseload facility near Lanigan. It will be able to generate power both as a simple cycle and combined cycle facility. Cherry said a decision to go ahead with the project is expected in early 2023, and an in-service date in 2027.

That would coincide with the anticipated retirement of some of SaskPower’s remaining coal-fired power units, most of which are approximately 300 megawatts each.

 

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On a day when SaskPower signs 650 MW interconnect with US, Alberta’s wind failure shows necessity of such interconnects

Brian Zinchuk: On Wednesday wind power generation in Alberta collapsed yet again, but renewables are our salvation, right?

Alberta’s wind fleet was putting out less than 1% of its capacity during Wednesday morning coffee break

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