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Sachs Harbour to receive new $10M diesel power plant

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The federal and territorial governments are to jointly fund a new diesel power plant for the high Arctic community of Sachs Harbour.

Just over 100 people live in Sachs Harbour, on the west coast of Banks Island.

The existing power plant is almost 50 years old. The new plant will be built with $7.4 million in federal funding, plus $2.4 million from the NWT government.

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Announcement of the new diesel facility comes within a month of the federal government launching a $20 million fund dedicated to helping remote communities cut down on their diesel use – illustrating the difficulties, in practice, of leaving diesel behind.

However, the territorial government said the new power plant would still reduce greenhouse gas emissions and operate more efficiently compared to the 43-year-old plant it replaces.

"The new Sachs Harbour plant is expected to result in a greenhouse gas savings of 283 tonnes and improve fuel efficiency by 18 percent compared with the existing plant," said Robert C McLeod, the minister responsible for the NWT Power Corporation, in a statement.

The federal government said the new facility will be designed to allow for the addition of wind power in future.

The plant is expected to be installed in Sachs Harbour in 2020, with work to include wind energy beginning in 2021.

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'An excellent candidate'

Generating energy through wind in Sachs Harbour has been the subject of a number of recent studies, while the territorial government is investing carbon tax revenues into a wind power project in nearby Inuvik.

A study of wind monitoring data from 2005 to 2009 concluded that, "with its excellent wind resource and high cost of electricity production, Sachs Harbour is an excellent candidate for developing a wind project."

Alternative energy company Tugliq established a meteorological surveillance tower in the community in the fall of 2017, designed to run for two years and itself powered by wind and solar energy.

That followed a 2017 study projecting a wind turbine project in Sachs Harbour would cost between $2 million and $2.7 million to develop, depending on the site chosen – though only one of those sites could feasibly prove economically beneficial compared to diesel generation, the study's authors suggested.

Backup diesel power is considered a prerequisite for any renewable project in the North, to ensure reliability of supply.

Andrew Stewart, the territorial government's director of energy, told the CBC wind power could eventually meet 20 to 30 percent of the community's needs.

Climate change and permafrost

Separately on Monday, the federal government announced two further tranches of funding.

$205,000 will be provided to the Government of the Northwest Territories "for an adaptation project to assess the cost of climate change impacts."

The project will estimate the cost of climate change's impact to the NWT over the next two decades, and also estimate the costs and benefits of actions the territory could take the address climate change.

A further $800,000 will be provided by Ottawa for permafrost research – specifically, research at test sites along the Dempster and Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highways, plus the creation of a database of permafrost information.

"This project will improve our understanding of how climate change is affecting northern roads and highways built in permafrost regions," stated a federal news release.