Construction underway at the Meadow Lake Tribal Council Bioenergy Centre

Residents in Meadow Lake can expect cleaner air and more jobs in the near future as the Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC) Bioenergy Centre at NorSask Forest Products is underway. SaskPower and the MLTC signed a power purchase agreement which was announced last fall.

Over the last year, SaskPower invested $696 million into the provincial electricity system. Notable accomplishments for 2019-20 include the announcement of a 25-year power purchase agreement with Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC) for up to 8-MW of biomass-generated electricity from a facility adjacent to the NorSask Sawmill just outside of the city.

MLTC Tribal Chief Richard Ben told meadowlakeNOW nine first nations will own 100 per cent stake in the biomass centre allowing dividends and revenue to be secured by the bands for recreational projects and cultural activities. Construction of the facility began in April amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “We still wanted to move forward despite the pandemic and construction is happening right now,” Chief Ben said. “The beehive is going to be gone so you won’t see that billowing cloud of smoke any more.”

Joel Cherry, spokesperson for SaskPower told meadowlakeNOW the MLTC Bioenergy Centre will be the first of its kind in the province and is expected to create enough green energy to power 5,000 homes in the province. The plant creates energy by using the same sawmill waste that is currently burned in the beehive burner. “This is significant because burning residuals from the saw mill, whether that’s bark, sawdust [etc.] , will be beneficial because it’s a lower carbon source of electricity and for people in the area, it will also improve air quality because less of those residuals are going into the atmosphere,” Cherry said. Cherry explained SaskPower is working to reduce emissions with a target of greenhouse gas emissions reduced 40 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and by adding generation sources such as Biomass sources along with wind, solar and geothermal methods are ways to reduce emissions. “Over the course of 25 years, the [NorSask] facility is expected to decrease greenhouse gases emissions by one million tons,” Cherry said.

President and CEO of NorSask Forest Products, Al Balisky told meadowlakeNOW construction is underway for the replacement of the beehive to a cleaner facility. “We’re well on our way with construction,” he said. “Expected completion is by late 2021.” Balisky said NorSask will sell carbon neutral energy to the SaskPower grid to further stabilize their grid in the North.

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