The Taku River Tlingit First Nation in Atlin, B.C., says its hydropower expansion could supply Yukon with more clean energy — but Yukon Energy has to get on board with the plan.
“We would be happy to be in energy purchase agreement discussions right now. We’re not,” said Peter Kirby, CEO of Tlingit Homeland Energy Ltd., the First Nation’s development arm.
“But you know, I’m sure everybody is working as hard as they can to make that happen and we’re ready, willing and able as soon as everybody else is.”
Atlin’s hydroelectric station has been operating since 2009, and the First Nation wants to expand it.
According to Kirby, the proposed project could supplement Yukon’s power supply at times of high demand, such as the winter months. If the expansion goes ahead, the Atlin plant would produce about 8 MW of power.
Kirby says a feasibility report is still being done on the project, so it will be years before anything is built. But he believes the project is viable.
“We’ll construct a 92-kilometre long transmission line from Atlin up to Jake’s Corner, interconnect with the transmission lines at Jake’s, and that will connect us to the Yukon grid,” he said.
Yukon Energy ‘interested in having further discussions’
Meanwhile, Yukon Energy is looking for new power sources. The company is now collecting feedback on a proposed 20-MW thermal power plant, to provide backup power in emergency situations.
Currently, Yukon Energy rents diesel generators in the winter months at a cost of about $1 million per year.
Yukon Energy’s president Andrew Hall says the company is interested in the Atlin expansion project, but says there are still hurdles to overcome and questions to answer.
“There are two pieces to it. There’s buying the power from Atlin, but then also paying for the transmission to get it all the way to Whitehorse. So all of that work still needs to be done,” Hall said.
“We certainly are interested in having further discussions.”
Hall says even if it goes ahead, the Atlin project wouldn’t stop Yukon Energy’s plans for a thermal plant.
“Frankly, we probably need both of them,” said Hall.
“It’s not really an either/or situation. They’re quite different in terms of their profile. And if you look at our needs in terms of meeting peak demand, particularly under emergency situations, we probably need both projects.”
Kirby understand Yukon Energy’s need for backup power in the short term, but he stresses that the Atlin plant would provide “clean energy,” and help reduce CO2 emissions.
“We’ve done that successfully here in Atlin. We’ve run near-perfectly for over a decade. We just celebrated our 10th anniversary of clean energy in Atlin, and we want to continue to work in that direction and work cooperatively with Yukoners and Yukon Energy, to assist in what needs to be done in the Yukon,” Kirby said.
“Short term thermal, long term ‘clean,’ is my thinking.”