There is a tremendous amount of untapped hydro potential in the NWT, estimated at around 11,000 MW. However, much of it is inaccessible due to transmission constraints. According to the Government of NWT (GNWT), extensive transmission build out will be necessary in addition to the development of smaller-scale systems [i]
Northern Canada’s first wind farm became operational in September 2012at the Diavik Diamond Mine site. The 9.2 MW facility consists of four turbines and was developed by Diavik Diamond Inc., a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, in order to diversify the energy supply at its mining operation at Lac de Gras, northeast of Yellowknife. In 2015, the wind farm supplied 11% of the mine’s power needs, displacing 5.2 million litres of diesel fuel [ii]. Currently, it represents the territory’s total wind capacity. The GNWT has also proposed the installation of a 1.8 MW turbine outside Inuvik called the Storm Hills project. A pre-feasibility study indicates it would be capable of meeting 18.5% of Inuvik’s annual load [iii].
The long hours of sunlight in spring and summer in the NWT can provide usable electricity for up to 8 months of the year. There are currently over 200 solar installations in the NWT, including some larger ones, such as 104 kW array in Fort Simpson. In addition, the NTPC is developing a 135-kW solar-diesel-battery system in Colville Lake that is being designed to shut down the town’s diesel engines for extended periods of the day during the summer months and generate up to 30% of the community’s annual electricity needs [iv].
The main use of biomass in NWT is for space heating and not electricity generation. However, interest is growing in biomass cogeneration – using biomass heat loads to produce electricity as a by-product as an alternative to diesel and LNG generation [iii]. The GNWT has also committed to funding for the promotion of community biomass projects and the establishment of a local biomass supply chain [v].
Through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR), the GNWT has developed specific strategies to meet its renewable energy goals. Among its key objectives is to develop enough solar capacity to supply up to 20% of the average load in NWT diesel communities. In addition, it aims to promote the use of the local supply of biomass and explore opportunities for cogeneration [i].
Two important funding opportunities for renewable energy are promoted through the Alternatives Energy Technology Program (AETP), which assists NWT residents and businesses to integrate renewable energy technologies into their operations to reduce fuel use and the cost of operations. This includes:
[i] Government of Northwest Territories. Northwest Territories Energy Action Plan. December 2013, http://www.iti.gov.nt.ca/sites/default/files/energy_action_plan_web_feb_20.pdf
[ii] Rio Tinto. n.d. Innovative and efficient wind farm delivers, http://www.riotinto.com/ourcommitment/features-2932_12151.aspx
[iii] Government of Northwest Territories. Northwest Territories Energy Action Plan. December 2013, http://www.iti.gov.nt.ca/sites/default/files/energy_action_plan_web_feb_20.pdf
[iv] Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, 2014. Powering Canada’s Territories. http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/SEN/Committee/412/enev/rep/rep14jun15-e.pdf
[v] Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, 2014. Powering Canada’s Territories. http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/SEN/Committee/412/enev/rep/rep14jun15-e.pdf