The territorial government will study alternatives to a submarine cable under Great Slave Lake, considered key to expanding the Taltson hydro system and providing cheaper power for the North Slave.
Expanding the South Slave's Taltson facility, a project designed to be completed in three phrases, has been projected to cost more than $1 billion. The territorial government has said the project would be transformative for the NWT's economy, offering cheaper, greener power to communities north of the lake.
The territory envisages the expanded hydro system powering new mines in the later phases of the project. Ultimately, the NWT government's aim is to connect to the southern grid for the first time.
However, the Department of Infrastructure says it will first assess all the options to make sure the existing plan – an underwater cable, stretching across Great Slave Lake – is the best way forward.
"The purpose of the [submarine cable alternatives] study is to ensure we consider the options – including costs, benefits, risks and environmental impacts – before settling on a preferred route and technology choice,” Department of Infrastructure spokesperson Agata Gutkowska told Cabin Radio.
The study will be carried out by one of a range of pre-qualified consultants, Gutkowska said. Those consultants were approached directly regarding the project, which was not open for public bidding.
Gutkowska said the budget for the work would not be released while the procurement process was ongoing.
Completion of the Taltson expansion is heavily reliant on investment from Ottawa. The Liberal government has consistently pledged support for the project in principle, but has so far released only limited funding to facilitate some planning and preparatory work.
On the project’s website, the territorial government states 270 km of transmission lines would be needed to connect the Taltson facility, around 60 km north of Fort Smith, to the North Slave’s Snare system.
Last year, the territory said the project's first phase would see the Taltson upgraded from 18MW to 60MW in generating capacity, then linked by underwater cable to the North Slave.
This is at least the third recent Taltson contract toward which the NWT government has allocated funds.