The Town of Inuvik has the highest dependency on diesel fuel in the NWT but the Inuvik Wind Generation Project is now well on the way to providing an alternative.
The Government of Canada and territorial government announced a joint funding announcement of $40 million for the project Nov. 13, which is seen as a major stepping stone in the GNWT’s 2030 Energy Strategy.
The GNWT hopes over the next decade to offer more affordable, sustainable and cleaner sources of energy, especially for those communities dependent on diesel. With the Inuvik project, the GNWT estimates 3 million litres of diesel fuel will be displaced and up to 7,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced.
About 22 communities in the NWT remain dependent on the fuel.
Andrew Stewart, director of energy at the GNWT Department of Infrastructure, said the Inuvik Wind project announcement was a milestone in getting alternative energy sources in the North and was a long time coming.
“We have been talking a wind project in the NWT since our 2008 energy plan,” Stewart said, adding there were hurdles to getting the wind project off the ground.
“We pleased was this project was able to come at the right time when federal funding leveraged.”
Two years of construction
Stewart said he expects the construction project to take two years but in the end, it will be the source of 30 per cent of Inuvik’s energy use. The specific location, Inuvik High Point, is 13 km outside of town and near the Inuvik (Mike Zubko) Airport. Based on wind monitoring tests in recent years, the location has speeds of 6.8 metres per second at 74 metres above ground — beyond the considered six-metre minimum for a wind turbine to be feasible.
The single unit, which will include a grid controller and a large battery storage system, is expected to have two to 3.7 megawatt output and work is underway to choose the model. His department has also applied for a permit with the Gwich’in Land and Water Board to begin the five km road construction needed to reach the High Point site in the new year.
Completing transmission lines, towering, foundation work, underground conductor cable upgrades, and battery storage system are other aspects that will be part of the process. Getting the turbine into the area will be the most complicated component, Stewart said.
“The lowest cost supply chain will be by barge because of the size and lengthy and weight of these things,” Stewart said. “That means having this thing built and up by the fall of 2020.”
Natasha Kulikowski, who was elected mayor in October, welcomed guests and joked about being a new mayor and enjoying a $40 million investment from the GNWT and federal governments.
“It is pretty quiet in the downtown and the costs keep going higher and higher for fuel and energy needs,” Kulikowski said. “I don’t think it will have direct effect right away but it opens the gate to the future for costs reduced on power and energy.”
Alfred Moses, GNWT minister of Education and local MLA for Inuvik-Boot Lake, was optimistic about the funding for his region of the North. He said he sees the investment as a sign of continued strong leadership among partnering governments including the Inuvialuit, Gwich’in Tribal Council, GNWT and federal government. He hopes it will help improve a slow economy for local businesses and Indigenous peoples and build on infrastructure investments in recent years that have included a fibre optic network and the Inuvik-to-Tuktoyaktuk Highway..
“Inuvik has always been a boom and bust economy as a government and resource town” he said. “When things are going good, things are great. But when things are bad, it isn’t always good and it is important to have partnerships like this (wind project).”
The wind energy announcement by the GNWT and federal government was one of three made last week. The others included $20 million for the Canyon Creek all-season access road in Norman Wells as well as $26.4 million for upgrades to two generators at the Snare Forks Hydroelectricity facility northwest of Yellowknife, which powers the four North Slave communities of Yellowknife, Behchoko, Dettah and Ndilo.