Should the B.C. government decide to halt the Site C dam project and find itself in need of additional power, Alaska Hydro (TSX-V:AKH) might have a few electrons to spare from a new hydro-electric dam it wants to build in northwestern B.C. near Stewart.
Located on More Creek, a tributary of the Iskut River that powers the Forrest-Kerr run-of-river project, Alaska Hydro’s proposed hydro-electric dam, estimated to cost $225 million, would have a capacity of 75 megawatts could be expanded to 170 MW.
Another clean-power developer – Clean Balance Power – says pumped storage could provide 1,000 MW of generating capacity (Site C’s capacity is 1,100 MW) for just $1 billion.
Both Alaska Hydro and Clean Balance Power are among the companies that have made submissions to the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC). Both argue that they have projects that could supply power as an alternative to Site C.
Alaska Hydro’s More Creek project is slowly making its way through provincial and federal environmental review processes.
Cliff Grandison, president of Alaska Hydro, was the original developer behind the Forrest-Kerr run-of-river project, which eventually was acquired and developed by AltaGas Ltd. (TSX:ALA).
Because it could provide controlled flows of water to the Iskut River, which powers the Forrest-Kerr run-of-river facility, Grandison said he believes the project could boost the Forrest-Kerr project’s generating capacity.
“When we store water behind that dam we will be able to deliver additional water to the Forrest-Kerr project,” he said.
“When you get high freshets, they spill water. Their plant isn’t big enough to take it. We can capture it, we can save it, and our estimation is that there is about 140 gigawatt hours of additional electricity that will come from that plant on a more regular basis with that dam there.”
He expects that the mines proposed for the Golden Triangle in northwestern B.C. will require more local power. The More Creek dam would be just 11 kilometres from the new Northwest Transmission line, which was built specifically to open the Golden Triangle to mining.
Of the handful of mines proposed for that area, including the massive KSM copper mine, one has been built to date: Red Chris mine.
“The growth in the area for electricity is substantial,” Grandison said.
The problem for private power developers like Alaska hydro and Clean Balance Power is that they need power purchase agreements from BC Hydro and, if Site C goes ahead, there is unlikely to be any major new power purchase calls for years to come.