Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavik December 14, 2010 - 1:30 pm

Kuujjuaq’s new diesel power plant officially opens Dec. 14

“We’re always looking for new systems, new green technology”

Kuujjuaq’s new $48-million power plant, shown here in a photo taken earlier this year, officially opens Dec. 14. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
Kuujjuaq’s new $48-million power plant, shown here in a photo taken earlier this year, officially opens Dec. 14. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

People who live in Kuujjuaq won’t experience any power outages for the foreseeable future, thanks to a new, larger diesel-fueled generating plant that officially opens Dec. 14.

“We are proud to have participated in the construction of this power plant in collaboration with the entrepreneurs and stakeholders from the region,” Paul Parsons, mayor of Kuujjuaq, said in a Dec. 14 news release.

The recently-completed power plant replaces an older plant located near the centre of the growing town of 2,200.

”Progressively after Christmas, we’ll transfer all the existing customers,” said Roger Perron, a Hydro Quebec regional director and its director of off-grid systems and distribution networks, who planned to be in Kuujjuaq for Tuesday afternoon’s inauguration ceremony.

While the new $48-million power plant still runs on diesel fuel, it’s a state-of-the-art facility with many sustainable features — from thick insulation to a location chosen to limit erosion, Perron said.

A joint-venture construction company, Laval Fortin Adams Inc., built the orange and grey-clad building in the shape of a “T” using recycled materials.

A roof designed to recover rainwater tops the building, whose outdoor lighting points downward to reduce light pollution.

And “like a new car,” the new power plant operates cleanly, with generators that operate on electronic injected fuel, producing fewer greenhouse gas emissions and less noise, Perron told Nunatsiaq News.

Overall, the new power plant will be also save 200,000 litres of diesel fuel a year— a five per cent increase in efficiency, he said.

The new power plant also has a built-in heat recovery system re-circulating warmth produced by the generators’ turbines, which will save fuel and keep inactive units at the right temperature.

A small wind farm may be eventually be connected to the power plant in the future to supplement its production, Perron said.

A plan to connect Kuujjuaq to Hydro Quebec’s main power grid in the South was examined and rejected because the price tag for the 450-kilometre electrical line and road south could reach $750,000 per km or about $340 million.

Hydro Quebec’s 2007 environmental impact study said other cleaner options for power generation were far too expensive — up to $200 million for a hydro project on High Falls— and too impractical because Kuujjuaq would still need a new back-up diesel plant.

Even carbon credits, issued to encourage sustainable power production and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, couldn’t make up the difference in the cost between building a new diesel-powered plant and some other cleaner project, the study noted.

So, Hydro Quebec decided the best all-around option in Kuujjuaq was to build a new diesel-fueled power plant outside town.

“Economically, [diesel] power generation is the best solution right now,” Perron said. “It’s cheaper to build a power generator, but we’re always looking for new systems, new green technology.”

A 1.3 kilometre road leads to the new power plant, which is located on top of a hill overlooking the town.

Its site was selected to control erosion, respect the surrounding wetlands and orient the building with respect to the prevailing winds, says an information sheet on the new power plant.

Inside the 50-metre by 35-metre power plant, five diesel-powered generators will churn out 6.6 MW of electricity, almost double the peak output of the older power plant.

And Kuujjuaq’s new power plant is designed to grow with the population and its needs.

There are plans to upgrade the plant by 2035 with three more generators, so that it will be able to produce 10.2 MW (still smaller than Iqaluit’s main power plant, which generates 12.6 MW of power, but adequate for the community’s projected growth).

The location of the new power plant has long been a favoured berry-picking site for people in the community.

Excavations carried out before the construction started found Inuit have used the site for approximately 3,700 years.

Some of the artifacts, like fragments of knife points and a complete double scraper, appear linked to the early Saqqaq culture, also found on the southwest coast of Greenland.

Archeologists say the Kuujuaq site was probably occupied temporarily when people came here to make stone objects.

Present-day residents of Kuujjuaq will get a chance to learn more about their new power plant next May, when Hydro Quebec plans to hold a two-day open house with information sessions and tours.

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