Members of the provincial government, SaskPower, the Nekaneet First Nation and City of Moose Jaw were on hand for a special opening ceremony at the worksite Friday morning, marking the first stages of work on the natural gas power plant.
The build is already well underway, with workers pausing to take in the remarks amid huge piles of earth, equipment and construction trailers on the site.
“This is a big announcement,” said SaskPower president and CEO Mike Marsh. “Any time you start construction of a power station and especially one of this size, it’s a very big event. It marks the beginning of that next phase of generation opportunities we have in the province, building this gas plant at the same time we’re building wind energy and solar energy. We’re moving down a path every time we do this to lower our carbon footprint and move into a cleaner future for Saskatchewan.”
The combined-cycle plant will produce 60 per cent fewer emissions than a coal-fired plant and is expected to reach completion in 2024. Once operational, it’ll provide 360 megawatts of power to the provincial grid, enough to service a city the size of Regina.
The plant will come online as units at the Boundary Dam in Estevan are retired, one this year and another in 2024, bolstering power generation while maintaining as clean a footprint as possible.
“This plant is needed to offset those retirements as well as provide the back-up energy when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining at solar facilities,” Marsh said. “So any time we do this, we’re doing it with the mind of reducing our emissions in the long run in the electricity sector in the province.”
Now for the real positive news: the construction portion of the project is expected to create 500 jobs while pumping more than $140 million into the local economy.
"And there’s also going to be a lot of work in maintenance contracts and contracts during the life of this facility over the next 20, 25 years that will support the local community and Saskatchewan contractors,” Marsh said. “So this is a project that will be an important part of Moose Jaw for a very long time.”
Choosing the Friendly City for the site of the power plant was a natural fit given where some of the major power draws in the region are.
“When you site a generation plant, you try and site it near where the load is,” Marsh explained. “We have potash mines in the area, you have the corridor between Moose Jaw and Regina, and significant load increases in this area just like the Saskatoon area.
"It was a natural because we have access to transmission lines and there’s also access to the main natural gas pipeline running in this area, which helped minimize the overall cost for this project immensely.”
Don Morgan, Minister Responsible for SaskPower, said the project is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cleaner energy.
“Going forward we have to look at the other things we might do,” Morgan said. “We have increased amount of solar and wind in the province and we’re also looking at biomass. Going forward we have to look at small modular (nuclear) reactors, too, we have a big portion of the world’s uranium in the province and I think we should be using it.
“There’s a high level of public acceptance for nuclear energy in the province and we’re looking right now into how that’ll fit into the existing grid and the possibilities of that."