Diesel generators will be the primary source of electricity for customers in the South Slave region who depend on the Taltson Hydroelectric facility for their power once a planned six-month overhaul gets underway in April.
Built in the 1960s to provide power to the Pine Point mine located between Hay River and Fort Resolution, the turbine, generator and key component parts that keep the 18-megawatt facility humming are due for replacement, said Doug Prendergast, the manager of communications for the Northwest Territories Power Corporation
“It is an exciting project,” Prendergast said.
“The Taltson unit has provided reliable power to the South Slave for a number of years, since the 1960s and 70s, so reinvesting in that asset is a smart economic and environmental move,” he said.
As a result of the overhaul, electricity customers in the communities of Enterprise, Fort Smith, Fort Resolution, K’atl’odeeche First Nation and Hay River will be switched over to diesel generators for the duration of the multi-million dollar project.
The interruptible electric heat customers in Fort Smith and Fort Resolution must rely on their backup heating systems during the project.
Prendergast said the diesel supply system is very dependable.
“We have been working towards this project for a number of years, so we have been testing and making sure we have sufficient back up generation available throughout the South Slave to make sure reliable power continues to be provided,” he said.
While dependable, diesel generators, however, are known to emit toxic pollutants into the environment, but it is an inevitable situation during the project, he said of the alternate power source.
“Certainly, during that period of time there will be an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, but in order to continue to get another 40 to 50 years of clean hydro in the South Slave, this overhaul is necessary,” he said.
While the overhaul comes at a time when the possibility of reopening the Pine Point mine is looming on the horizon, Prendergast said there is no direct connection with the refurbishment of the Taltson unit.
“This is replacing parts that are reaching the end of their design life so it is returning the hydro unit to a situation with parts that we can depend upon,” he said.
“Those key component parts will be replaced.”
Prendergast said the total cost of the project will not be known until it is complete, but it is estimated to be between $60 to 70 million.
While the electricity rates for customers will remain the same during the project, Prendergast said they will not know the effect on rates and on customers once the project is complete and financing is finalized.
He said the Government of Canada has provided between $17 to 18 million dollars and the remainder of the financing is still being worked upon.
Because the Taltson facility, located 64 kilometers north of Fort Smith on the Taltson River, is primarily accessible only by air, he said they have had people doing preparatory ground work and building a new, larger camp for workers. Over the winter, a new ice road was also constructed to enable transportation of the new turbine and turbine base to the facility in advance of the project. The Taltson Winter Road officially opened on Feb. 22.
The Taltson system is connected to the communities by about 200 kilometers of transmission lines, maintained by NTPC.
The hydro plant consists of an 18 MW hydro unit and a 300 kW emergency stand-by diesel generator.
Understand progress, but $6 million worth of diesel being belched out over Ft. Smith in 6 months and the incredulous noise of generators running 24 hrs for six months are both major environmental occurrences that can have a negative impact on our health.