A First Nations-owned transmission company is the Ontario government’s developer of choice to hook up remote communities in northwestern Ontario to the provincial power grid.
Wataynikaneyap Power LP (Watay) was selected in late July to be the transmitter to build a 1,800-kilometre network to bring power to more than 10,000 people in 17 remote communities who’ve been reliant for decades on expensive and unreliable local diesel generation.
For the last eight years, Watay and its chair Margaret Kenequanash have been leading the charge to make the $1.35-billion project a reality. They’ve steadily grown their ownership base to 22 First Nation communities and skillfully recruited transmission specialists Fortis Ontario and RES Canada to join their consortium.
“I think it’s exciting that we’re able to bring clean energy to our communities and that we can move forward with the development that’s required to build the line,” said Kenequanash.
Construction begins in the spring of 2018 once all the necessary provincial approvals are in place, with the eventual goal of completing construction and connecting communities by 2024. The project is expected to create almost 800 jobs.
Phase one would involve beefing up the 300-kilometre-long transmission line running into the Pickle Lake substation from 115 kV to 230 kv.
The second phase would see the line extending north of Pickle Lake and Red Lake to connect the First Nations.
Kenequanash said they’ve been in discussions with the communities in determining where the corridors can go based on the environmental sensitivity of some areas.
The next steps are to apply to the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) for ‘Leave to Construct’ the $1.35-billion project and finish all the necessary environmental assessment work.
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