Wednesday, 28 November 2012 16:36

Swift Current shortlisted as potential site for SaskPower gas plant

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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The Swift Current area has made it onto the shortlist as one of two potential sites for a proposed project that will help SaskPower to meet future electrical demands in the province.

The other site on the shortlist is the Wolverine switching station, which is located southeast of Saskatoon near Lanigan. The project for the construction of a 250 to 300 megawatt combined cycle gas turbine facility will result in a significant economic benefit for the area where it will be located.
The project’s construction cost is estimated to be between $500 million and $700 million. It will result in up to 300 temporary jobs during the three- to four-year construction period and full-time employment for 20 to 30 people during the operational phase.
“This is something that could have a huge impact in this region and we’re hoping for the best,” Swift Current Mayor Jerrod Schafer said.
Four sites, which are all existing SaskPower switching stations, were originally under consideration for the new facility. The other two are Condie, which is northwest of Regina, and the Peebles site southeast of Regina.
The Swift Current area switching station is located about eight kilometres west of the city along the Trans-Canada highway on land within the R.M. of Swift Current.
“I think for residents from both regions it’s a no-brainer that there’s co-operation in something like this,” Schafer said. “Certainly our efforts have been dedicated not only on behalf of our residents but residents of the region because we think it’s that important.”
In mid-October the City submitted an unsolicited proposal to SaskPower to highlight Swift Current as an ideal location for a new gas generation facility. Engineering firm AECOM assisted City administration with technical expertise during the preparation of the proposal.
Chief Administrative Officer Susan Motkaluk said the City received positive feedback from SaskPower on the proposal.
“I do believe they were very excited to see the work that we submitted,” she noted. “We gave them some additional information beyond what they even had within their initial evaluation, so we certainly did broaden their minds.”
The proposal highlighted various advantages to locating the plant in the Swift Current area, including close proximity to the Trans-Canada Highway and a gas pipeline, a professional fire service and the availability of various health, education, housing, business and entertainment amenities.
“The reason we highlighted that sort of stuff is because with the construction of such a project you would be drawing on trades people and be wanting to attract labour,” she explained.
SaskPower’s Manager of Sustainable Supply Development Brian Mohr said there was a positive response from communities near the four potential sites.
“One of the things that Swift Current did that perhaps others did not do was they offered up to provide land for a site and the possibility of providing water through their wastewater treatment plant,” he added. “Certainly those two elements helped, but they were just one of many factors that we considered.”
Over the next few months, SaskPower will be conducting groundwater testing and other studies on the two shortlisted sites to determine each location’s suitability for a gas turbine facility.
“In parallel with that we’re very closely monitoring our load growth,” he said. “If we conclude that we need to put a new natural gas-fired power plant in, the plant will be selected from those two sites.”
Mohr cautioned that SaskPower is considering various other options to manage future power demand in the province. The proposals for a number of potash mines in the province also include suggestions for cogeneration facilities.
“The important part of this short listing exercise is that it does provide SaskPower with the option to build a brand new power plant in those two regions if it becomes necessary to serve load,” he said.
Any decision on how SaskPower might proceed will not be taken before the second quarter of next year, but it will all depend on load growth and other power generation opportunities.
Even if the two shortlisted sites are not considered in the near future, they will remain in SaskPower’s inventory of supply options for the future.
“Now that we know that these are two potential sites we can do a much better job of our planning efforts and be much better prepared when we need to move forward with new projects,” Mohr said. “By selecting these sites the communities can now build that into their land use and other planning so that if and when the time comes that we do have to go forward with the power generation project people are prepared.”
Motkaluk said the City is currently assembling an economic development focus group that will also consider ways to secure this electrical generation project for the Swift Current area.

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