North·Q&A

How will wind power change Inuvik? N.W.T. energy director gives the details

The landscape of Inuvik could change soon with the construction of wind turbines just outside of town.

Turbine could reduce diesel consumption in Inuvik by 30 per cent

Andrew Stewart, the director of the energy division of the territory's department of infrastructure, says the project would cost between $30 to $40 million. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

Inuvik's landscape could change soon with the construction of wind turbines just outside of town.

The N.W.T. government and federal government recently announced $40 million to build the Inuvik Wind Generation project, which will include turbines, a grid controller and a large battery to store energy when wind speed slows.

Andrew Stewart, director of the N.W.T. Department of Infrastructure's energy division, spoke to CBC North's Lawrence Nayally about what this project will mean for the community.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Q. Why does the Northwest Territories government believe a wind farm is good for Inuvik?

It's going to significantly reduce the amount of diesel consumption that's required in the community. Our numbers suggest more than three million litres of diesel fuel could be reduced in that community.

Q. How much power will it generate?

Inuvik uses a mix of 60 per cent diesel and 40 per cent gas. The turbine project is expected to reduce the diesel complement, with overall use at about 30 per cent.

Q. Do you see it as a long-term solution for cutting down on diesel?

Absolutely, it's certainly one of the best ways that we have to introduce renewables and reduce diesel across the N.W.T. Up to 7,000 tons of [greenhouse gas] emissions annually can be eliminated from the North and that's a pretty positive thing.

Q. How do you think it will affect employment in the region?

There will certainly be an uptick for construction. It'll be a two year period of construction. Local groups are accustomed to permafrost and road construction conditions, so definitely a significant opportunity there. The power generation business in its nature is not going to create a whole bunch of jobs. Once you create a bunch of long-term jobs you are driving the cost of energy up.

Q. What's going to happen next with the project?

The Gwich'in Land and Water Board is reviewing our application. If things go positively we could have that project permitted by January 2019.

Q. When do you expect to see the project fully up and running?

I would say fall of 2020. The procurement of the larger turbine is the key area of concern right now. We can get the nuts and bolts of the road and look at the transmission line and the battery in the coming year, but it'll be the following summer — barge season likely — we'll see turbine components actually delivered.

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