Canada’s Nunavut utility narrows list of hydro sites

Qulliq Energy Corp. has narrowed from 14 to five a list of potential hydropower project sites near Iqaluit, on Baffin Island in extreme northeastern Canada.

QEC said it chose and ranked five potential hydro sites as the most appropriate for further investigation, based on a pre-feasibility study of 14 potential sites. Consulting engineers Knight Piesold Ltd. conducted the study for QEC, a utility owned by Nunavut, a territory created from the eastern half of Canada’s Northwest Territories in 1999.

QEC did not identify potential sites or individual generating capacities, but a spokesman said the hydro projects could range from 4 MW to 30 MW, depending on the final sites selected.

“The announcement of potential sites is a significant marker on the road to this development, and we are not yet at that stage,” QEC spokesman Yasmina Pepa said. “We would love to be able to tell you exactly where and when this project would be built, too, but all of this is currently far too speculative.”

Hydro to displace remote diesel generation

The sites are being considered because they are within “viable proximity” of Iqaluit, a town of about 5,000 in the sparsely populated near-Arctic region. The hydro sites are intended to displace costly and polluting diesel- and oil-fired generation. Iqaluit’s 2004 energy consumption was about 199 gigawatt-hours. Currently, QEC supplies all of its electricity from diesel-fired generators; another company supplies heating oil.

Pepa said five is an approximate number of sites, because different combinations or locations of sites might preclude other combinations, or might support a site that otherwise would not be viable. Factors used in the ranking of sites included: the presence of fish; in-stream flow requirements; land ownership; protected areas; archaeology and heritage; community and traditional use, and public concerns; and impoundment area.

While not disclosing sites, QEC has said previous preliminary assessments were made at Apex River, Anna Maria Port, Armstrong River, Sylvia Grinnell River, and Ward Inlet. Sites at Burton Bay, Jordan River, and McKeand River previously were identified but never studied, it said.

Community discussions, studies under way

QEC is proceeding with community discussions, as well as initial environmental and stream flow studies. It also is pursuing external funding for geo-technical work. Pepa said QEC supports stakeholder involvement as an essential part of site selection.

“The cost details for the environmental study are also being finalized, as well as ways to have the maximum local participation in the studies, an effective transfer of knowledge, and the best local economic benefit,” she said.

Under one timeline, site selection could occur in 2006 or 2007, followed by feasibility studies, design work, and financing. If those dates are met, construction could begin in 2009.

Feasibility studies would include preliminary geo-technical investigations, preliminary design and layout of dams, intakes, penstocks, powerhouses, tailraces, and transmission lines. Those studies also would include cost estimates, financial analysis, and development schedules.

QEC said it expects to request proposals for services on its Internet site, www.npc.nu.ca, as the sites are identified more specifically.

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