Low water in N.W.T. means less hydro power, more use of diesel generators

Snare Falls is one of the 4 hydro plants that make up the Snare Hydro System. The hydro generators are operating at a reduced level because of low water levels. (Submitted by Doug Prendergast.)

A drop in water levels in the southern N.W.T. means hydro generators are producing less electricity for Yellowknife and its surrounding area — and diesel generators are helping to meet the need. 

“Unfortunately, water levels continue to be well below average, which does require us to run diesel generators to make up the power necessary to meet the demand,” said Doug Prendergast, the manager of communications for the Northwest Territories Power Corporation (NTPC).

Prendergast said diesel generators are more costly, and produce greenhouse gas emissions.

Hydro generators are typically used to provide nearly all the electricity to Yellowknife, Behchoko and Dettah. In a year with more average water levels, hydro would provide 95 to 98 per cent of power to the areas.

But this year hydro generators are producing only 55 per cent of the region’s electrical power, with diesel generators producing the rest.

Low water at the hydroelectric facilities was evident in June, when the N.W.T. government spent $15 million in part to help keep the cost of electricity low for residents, as using diesel generators is more expensive.

The drop in water levels is attributed to the intense heat last year as well as this year, according to Ryan Connon, a hydrologist with the Government of the Northwest Territories.

“Extreme hot conditions have led to a lot of evaporation. There’s not a lot of water to move to the rivers, and there’s also very little precipitation,” he said.

A Snare Hydro System generator unit. (Submitted by Doug Prendergast )

Yellowknife gets most of its power from the Snare Hydro system, which includes four hydro generating plants located on the Snare River. Yellowknife also receives some power from Bluefish Hydro.

Prendergast said that NTPC has a reserve connected to the Snare River, and they take water from the reserve when the flow from the Snare River is too low.

He said right now the amount of water flowing into the reserve is a third of what it would normally be in any given year.

He said that the corporation is continuing to track the snow melt and rainfall to help predict what the future could look like for the hydroelectric facilities.

Another N.W.T. hydro generation facility is also not currently operating and is relying on diesel generators.

The Taltson hydro dam is the primary power provider for the South Slave region  — providing power to Fort Smith, Fort Resolution, Hay River, Enterprise and the Kátł’odeeche First Nation.

The facility is currently not providing power as it’s been under scheduled refurbishment since April.

All of the areas that were served by the hydro facility are now relying on diesel generators for power.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Canada’s North spared from national military staff shortages, CBC News

Faroe Islands: Faroe Islands’ Arctic strategy focuses on security, climate & cooperation, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Russia high on agenda at Nordic Council meeting, Eye on the Arctic

Greenland: Greenland, Iceland sign cooperation agreement in Reykjavik, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland: Arctic Circle—The outside world keeps walking in, Blog by Marc Lanteigne

Norway: Hybrid threat researcher detained in Tromsø on suspicion of being Russian agent, Thomson Reuters

Russia: Newly deployed nuke-bombers at Kola is certainly a signalling, expert says, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: China, Russia among global priorities, including in Arctic, in U.S. security strategy, Eye on the Arctic

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