Sask.'s largest wind farm opens near Assiniboia
50-turbine wind farm has capacity to generate enough power for 100,000 homes
Saskatchewan's largest wind farm opened Tuesday morning near Assiniboia.
Fifty turbines, an underground electrical collection system and a transformer substation were constructed as part of the Golden South Wind Energy project.
Access roads were created and existing roads just outside of Assiniboia, a town of just over 2,300 people about 135 kilometres southwest of Regina, were upgraded.
Potentia Renewables Inc., which was the successful candidate for a SaskPower request for proposals for utility-scale wind power in 2018, broke ground on the project in 2019. Its total cost was $340 million, according to a Potentia news release.
Ben Greenhouse, the senior vice-president of growth at Potentia Renewables, said the company hired 150 people to construct the wind farm. Seven permanent employees will maintain and run the turbines.
"I think in a town this size, seven jobs isn't nothing," he said. "It's seven families, it's children at the local school, so we think it has a meaningful impact just from the people point of view."
Greenhouse said the turbines will last 25 to 30 years, but Potentia only has a 20-year contract with SaskPower.
After 25 to 30 years, "we would look at decommissioning them or potentially repowering the site, depending on what SaskPower's needs are at the time," he said.
If decomissioned, the towers would be recycled and the steel would be reused, he said.
"The blades are made of fibreglass and there's a lot of working going on to recycle them right now, so I think in 20 years those would be recyclable as well."
The wind farm has the capacity to produce 200 megawatts of power — enough to power 100,000 homes in Saskatchewan.
Troy King, the acting president for SaskPower, said the Crown energy corporation has entered into a power purchase agreement to buy any energy Potentia develops, which will then be fed into the provincial power grid.
"All of our generation sources in Saskatchewan feed into the grid and we use it equally," King said. "When we build our rates and charge customers, everyone benefits from the wind power."
King said with this wind farm, the province now has a total of 600 megawatts of renewable energy generation, representing 20 to 25 per cent of Saskatchewan's total energy.
SaskPower has a goal to get emissions to 50 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
"We think we'll easily meet that goal. Net zero is going to be a little bit trickier," King said. "We're right now looking at 2050 as our target to get to net zero."
Net zero goal
Saskatchewan's plan is in line with the federal government's plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
"The biggest challenge we're going to have getting to net zero is finding non-emitting baseload power" — the minimum amount of energy the electrical grid needs, King said.
"Wind and solar are great intermittent sources of power, they're great sources of energy, but they don't provide you with consistent baseload power," he said.
"Small modular reactors, carbon capture, batteries — those types of technologies are what's promising to get us to that net zero."
Other energy projects King said are currently in development include a large gas facility being built in Moose Jaw.
"That's about a 350-megawatt facility," he said. "On the renewable front, we have three solar facilities under construction right now.… The next major one will likely be 100 megawatts of solar."
Don Morgan, the provincial minister responsible for Crown corporations, said Saskatchewan is at a point where it needs to look at a variety of different options when it comes to getting to net zero by 2050.
"It's a long ways out but we'll work our way through it," he said at Tuesday's opening for the wind farm. That includes looking at nuclear and other wind-power options, Morgan said.
"Most jurisdictions are finding that everyone right now wants to move to renewables, which is great, but [a] reliable baseload is still necessary for the times where there's no wind or no sunlight."
The government wants to move as quickly as is reasonably possible toward net zero emissions, he said, but care must be taken to ensure projects work well.
"We want to use the best technology. We want to look and see how Ontario is doing with … [small modular reactors], we want to look and see what other provinces are doing for wind and for other renewables," he said.