Skagway could solve our power shortfall

Skagway is looking to build a second hydroelectric station. That has Yukon Energy very excited. "It's a real win-win," said Michael Brandt, vice-president of utility.

Skagway is looking to build a second hydroelectric station.

That has Yukon Energy very excited.

“It’s a real win-win,” said Michael Brandt, vice-president of utility.

Skagway is desperate for energy to power cruise ships in the summer, while Yukon Energy needs to find a way to provide more electricity to its customers in the winter when water levels are low.

Both the town and the utility are hoping that the West Creek hydro project could be the solution to their problems.

“It’s a natural fit,” said Brandt. “We’ve got common issues and the more we look at it the better it gets.”

At 25 megawatts, the West Creek hydro project would more than double the generating capacity of Skagway.

But with 350 ships coming in every summer – each one of which uses up to 11 megawatts of power – and two new power-hungry mines coming online in the Yukon soon, there’s no shortage of customers.

Right now, cruise ships generate their own electricity by burning fuel.

“The major concern here is that cruise-ship emissions are causing some damage in the valley,” said Stan Selmer, Skagway’s mayor.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency mandated earlier this year that ships switch to a more environmentally friendly, low-sulphur fuel while docked in port. But while it’s cleaner burning, it’s still far from clean.

“They started using this better fuel in August, which will make some difference, but it’s not the whole answer,” said Selmer. “The whole answer is getting them hooked up to shore power when they show up.”

And that means getting a new hydro station built.

The West Creek project is still a long way off.

First, a feasibility study needs to be done to ensure it’s viable.

The Alaska Power and Telephone Company did a study of the site in the early 1980s, but 10 years ago a moraine collapsed and flooded the area, so there is some concern that the previous study may be out of date.

Skagway has tried for five of the last six years to get the Alaskan government to pony up some cash to do the study. It’s willing to put up $84,000 but it still needs $236,000 from the Alaska Energy Authority to get the ball rolling.

The big difference this year is that Yukon Energy and the Yukon government have shown interest in the project, which has Selmer more optimistic than ever about the prospect of success.

“By having the right people in the room we hope to have the Alaska Energy Authority make the right decision this year,” he said.

In June, the town signed a memorandum of understanding with Yukon Energy to work together on future energy projects, and earlier this month representatives of utilities and governments from both sides of the border met to discuss the project.

If the project goes ahead it would mean building a transmission line from Whitehorse to Skagway.

Telecom companies on both sides of the border have expressed some interest in using the route to add redundancy to their networks, and for Yukon Energy it would open up opportunities for other small-scale hydro projects along the way that wouldn’t otherwise be viable, said Brandt.

It would also get the utility one step closer to hooking into the B.C. power grid.

“Alaska is working to connect to the B.C. grid and we’d like to connect to the grid as well. It turns out the closest way to B.C. might be through Alaska,” he said.

The Alaska Energy Authority isn’t expected to make a decision on the funding for feasibility study until December. If it decides in Skagway’s favour, the funding request would still have to get the approval of the state legislature before the project can move forward.

“It’s still early days, but the governor’s office and the premier’s office are bringing a lot of resources to bear on this, so there’s a lot of reason to peruse this,” said Brandt.

Contact Josh Kerr at

joshk@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks at a press conference in Whitehorse on March 30. Hanley announced three more COVID-19 cases in a release on Nov. 21. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three more COVID-19 cases, new exposure notice announced

The Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Brendan Hanley, announced three… Continue reading

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: COVID-19 strikes another blow at high-school students

They don’t show up very often in COVID-19 case statistics, but they… Continue reading

The Cornerstone housing project under construction at the end of Main Street in Whitehorse on Nov. 19. Community Services Minister John Streicker said he will consult with the Yukon Contractors Association after concerns were raised in the legislature about COVID-19 isolation procedures for Outside workers at the site. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Concerns raised about alternate self-isolation plans for construction

Minister Streicker said going forward, official safety plans should be shared across a worksite

The Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley, pictured at a press conference in October, announced three new cases of COVID-19 on Nov. 20 as well as a new public exposure notice. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New COVID-19 cases, public exposure notice announced

The new cases have all been linked to previous cases

Beatrice Lorne was always remembered by gold rush veterans as the ‘Klondike Nightingale’. (Yukon Archives/Maggies Museum Collection)
History Hunter: Beatrice Lorne — The ‘Klondike Nightingale’

In June of 1929, 11 years after the end of the First… Continue reading

Samson Hartland is the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during its annual general meeting held virtually on Nov. 17. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Yukon Chamber of Mines elects new board

The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during… Continue reading

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and — unsurprisingly — hospital visitations were down. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Annual report says COVID-19 had a large impact visitation numbers at Whitehorse General

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

City council was closed to public on March 23 due to gathering rules brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The council is now hoping there will be ways to improve access for residents to directly address council, even if it’s a virtual connection. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Solution sought to allow for more public presentations with council

Teleconference or video may provide opportunities, Roddick says

Megan Waterman, director of the Lastraw Ranch, is using remediated placer mine land in the Dawson area to raise local meat in a new initiative undertaken with the Yukon government’s agriculture branch. (Submitted)
Dawson-area farm using placer miner partnership to raise pigs on leased land

“Who in their right mind is going to do agriculture at a mining claim? But this made sense.”

Riverdale residents can learn more details of the City of Whitehorse’s plan to FireSmart a total of 24 hectares in the area of Chadburn Lake Road and south of the Hidden Lakes trail at a meeting on Nov. 26. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Meeting will focus on FireSmart plans

Riverdale residents will learn more details of the City of Whitehorse’s FireSmarting… Continue reading

The City of Whitehorse is planning to borrow $10 million to help pay for the construction of the operations building (pictured), a move that has one concillor questioning why they don’t just use reserve funds. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Councillor questions borrowing plan

City of Whitehorse would borrow $10 million for operations building

Most Read