Wind turbine expected to reduce Inuvik electricity bills, emissions by early 2023
Project to save $3M per year on diesel in N.W.T.'s most diesel-heavy community
Construction to pave the way for a wind turbine began in Inuvik, N.W.T., last month.
The turbine is expected to be up and running early next year, and once it is — it will make a "big difference" in the region, said N.W.T. MP Michael McLeod. During a media conference on Wednesday, officials announced that construction on an access road began in January.
The wind turbine is expected to save the Northwest Territories Power Corporation (NTPC) from buying 3 million litres of fuel per year, which will translate to cost savings for Inuvik residents.
The community currently consumes the most diesel for electricity generation of anywhere in the territory.
"One of the real benefits is, of course, the wind. The fuel is something we don't have to pay for," said Bruno Pereira, chief projects and engineering officer for NT Energy — a sister company of NTPC.
Electricity rates are calculated on the cost of infrastructure and the cost of fuel. In Inuvik, that currently comes to 68.37 cents per kilowatt hour, said Pereira. The government subsidizes that, however, so customers actually pay 30.60 cents per kilowatt hour — on top of an $18 monthly service fee.
"Right off the bat, as soon as the wind turbine is turning, for that first year, we'll see that savings in diesel right away."
McLeod said the project would reduce costs for consumers, but Pereira wasn't able to say how much savings would be downloaded to customers. He said an application to change the rate is still being prepared and has to be approved by the Northwest Territories Public Utilities Board — which regulates public utilities throughout the territory.
Doug Prendergast, communications manager for the NTPC, told CBC News in an email it would be "premature to [forecast] future electricity rates in Inuvik." He said the price will be affected by the cost of diesel and gas, inflation and overall electricity sales.
'We need to do more'
Ken Kyikavichik, Grand Chief of the Gwich'in Tribal Council, said the Gwich'in Tribal Council was "excited" about the wind turbine — which is being built in an area known as Highpoint, 12 kilometres east of Inuvik.
"This is a small contribution to addressing the existential threat of global climate change that we see the impacts [of] right here in the Mackenzie Delta," he said.
Diane Archie, the territory's infrastructure minister, said the wind turbine is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6,000 tonnes per year.
"One of the priorities of the government of the N.W.T. is to increase the use of alternative energy and renewable energy," she said.
Harnessing the power of renewable energy will allow the territory to protect residents from fluctuating diesel costs and will help it reach its goal of reducing emissions by 30 per cent by 2030, she said.
In order to hit that mark, however, the territory still has to reduce emissions by 283 kilotonnes from what they were back in 2019.
"Certainly, we need to do more," said Andrew Stewart, the director of strategic energy for the Infrastructure department.
But, he pointed out, this project alone is expected to take the territory one third of the way to its goal to reduce emissions from diesel-generated electricity by 25 per cent.
No concerns for reindeer herd, says grand chief
Kyikavichik also fielded questions about concerns that had previously been raised about the wind turbine's impact on a herd of reindeer.
The Nihtat Gwich'in Council had argued the project was on land that had been set aside for reindeer grazing. It filed a challenge to the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories in Nov. 2020.
That challenge was dropped the following January after the council's annual general meeting.
"There are no concerns with potential impacts to the reindeer herd for this particular project," said Kyikavichik. "This matter was dealt with in early 2021 and further clarification has been provided. There are no further concerns."